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Ben Foster continues a hot streak with “Galveston”

It’s hard to find a more underrated actor in the industry than Ben Foster. For years now, he’s been doing incredibly good work, often in very solid films, without receiving the acclaim that he deserves. Luckily, he’s slowly getting more time in the spotlight. His brush with an Academy Award nomination (he was unjustly snubbed) for Hell or High Water got him to a new level. Then, Foster followed it up earlier this year with a 180 of a performance in Leave No Trace. Now, this week brings something in between with Galveston, a starring vehicle for the man. We rarely get those, so it’s something to cherish.

This movie is a noir of sorts, which is to be expected, considering Nic Pizzolatto penned the novel and wrote his own adaptation. The film follows Roy Cady (Foster), a middle aged hitman in New Orleans. Given a terminal diagnosis of lung cancer, he immediately leaves the doctor’s office an lights a cigarettes. That’s who Roy is. When he’s given a job by his mobster boss (Beau Bridges), it seems like an easy gig. Of course, he’s instead double crossed. He escapes, rescuing a young prostitute named Rocky (Elle Fanning) in the process. Now looking to survive, and with revenge on his mind, he whisks her off towards Galveston to plan his next move. Rocky has her own problems too, and soon they’ve picked up her young sister, complicating matters. It’s gritty stuff, with a bold third act that you won’t see coming. Actress turned filmmaker Melanie Laurent directs the script Pizzolatto wrote with Jim Hammett. This is mostly a two hander, though the cast also includes Adepero Oduye, Anniston Price, Tinsley Price, Lili Reinhart, and more. The evocative cinematography and music comes from Arnaud Potier and Marc Chouarain, respectively.

Foster delivers reliably good work here. It’s another quiet character for him, but one that’s not nearly silent, as was Leave No Trace. He doesn’t quite develop chemistry with Fanning, but that’s by design. He’s the center of attention, and since that doesn’t happen too often, that’s a real plus. There are a few narrative turns that might make you roll your eyes, but Foster’s work keeps you on board the whole time.

Fanning’s work is praiseworthy too, is the filmmaking from Laurent. Galveston suggests that Laurent is capable of directing just about any type of movie. Her skillset is deeply malleable and she has an eye for lived in performances. Fanning and Foster are in good hands here. I’d actually love to see Laurent continue to work in genre. Hell, Jason Blum just spoke of how hard it is to find female directors to make his horror outings. Give her a call. She’d knock it out of the park.

Here is an updated look at Foster’s ten best performances so far:

10. Galveston
9. 3:10 to Yuma
8. Rampart
7. Kill Your Darlings
6. Alpha Dog
5. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
4. Birds of America
3. Leave No Trace
2. The Messenger
1. Hell or High Water

Honorable Mention: Hostiles, Lone Survivor, and The Program

If you love Foster, Galveston should be up your alley. It begins its theatrical run this weekend, and while it probably won’t find a huge audience, it may well find a small yet appreciative one. Frankly, in addition to Foster’s work, Laurent’s filmmaking is so subtly effective, that’s worth taking in as well. As good an actress as she is, Laurent may very well be a better filmmaker. At the very least, I now am eager to see what she does next. Together, they make this a flick worth giving a shot to.

Be sure to check out Foster in Galveston, in theaters tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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