Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley ★★★

Both better and worse than the 1947 original. Del Toro’s take is more narratively logical, and manages to sort through the motivations of several characters with greater deftness. It makes for a solid entertainment, certainly better than I expected after the nonsense of “The Shape of Water.” But the movie is betrayed by a few key miscast characters: Bradley Cooper is all thumbs whether he’s in yokel mode or playing the sophisticate, and Richard Jenkins, in particularly, feels oddly anachronistic—he seems so rooted in contemporary times it’s difficult to buy him as a relic from the early 1900s, and he’s thoroughly unconvincing as a threat of any kind. The worst part though is the nauseatingly sleek cinematography; every surface is shiny as a chrome bumper or drearily damp and dirty as a city gutter, with no degrees of subtlety in between.

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