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Carnage (2011)

A new comedy of no manners.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 79 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 12A

At first glance, Roman Polanski has chosen a weird cast for Carnage, his new bourgeois comedy. None of the four lead actors – Foster, Reilly, Winslett and Waltz – have ever shown themselves to be competent comedy actors (and, of course, I mean Reilly too) but this is a risk that pays off.

Carnage is about two couples who meet for a supposedly cordial peacemaking dinner after one their sons beats up the other in a park. Michael (Foster) and Penelope (Reilly) are the parents of the victim and come across as insensitive Bohemian Brooklynites whereas Nancy (Winslett) and Alan (Waltz) are the parents of the culprit and are the colder, meaner of the two pairs. The calm meeting quickly descends into bitter arguments that threaten to prematurely end the summit but it becomes obvious that out of pride and anger no-one can leave.

Polanksi does excellently to ratchet up the tension throughout until you are watching through your fingers with dialogue that positively bristles with intent and provocation. The lines are expertly delivered by three and a half actors and actresses of real quality and Christoph Waltz doesn’t surprise when his accent comes up trumps as he relays the lion’s share of the choice lines. Also, watch out for two Polanskis – the Director makes and appearance and so does his son, Elvis. Yes, that’s right, Elvis. This is the kind of socially awkward, New York comedy drama that Woody Allen should be making but if it’s this good with Roman at the helm then Allen can fritter his career away.

The only downside to Carnage is that it gets a little farcical towards the end and is in danger of undoing the great work of the subtly entertaining first three-quarters.

It's Got: Bristling dialogue, funny moments, a surprisingly well chosen cast

It Needs: To keep it's tight form until the very end


Polanksi takes a risk with a cast of non-comedians (Reilly included) for this comedy drama but it pays off as Carnage is funny, tense and full of choice dialogue.