Burn (2019)

burn

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A young woman attempts to change her life in the feature film directorial debut of Mike Gan.

Melinda is a young gas station attendant who has had her own problems. It is not that she doesn’t like her job so much. It is that her co-worker Sheila, who is more attractive, gets more attention than her. Even when she attempts to enforce the rules of the station, she is constantly met with resistance. The occasional saving grace comes in the form of local police officer Liu, who has a bit of a liking to her. However, as Sheila gets more attention, she grows tired until one fateful night is set to change her life.

Billy, a young drifter, arrives with the intention of robbing the station. However, Melinda and Sheila are able to work together to stop him. They tie him up and put him in the back of the store while awaiting police. Pleading for his life at first, he is stunned when Melinda walks up to him, sits across from him and gets to know him. She decides she must understand Billy’s motives as she finds an opportunity to get the attention she feels she deserves. With the anticipation of the police’s arrival, Melinda will have to make a decision that will either make or break her.

A combination of tense thriller mixed in with a subtlety of intricate characterization, Mike Gan’s first feature film may bring to mind the likes of the Coen Brothers and perhaps, something along the lines of Jim Jarmusch in terms of character effect and storyline. Gan did a fine job with this film, depicting the tale of a lowly gas station attendant who attempts to change her life but not exactly making the right choices along the way.

The cast of characters really stand out, with two in particular really giving it their all. The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson definitely breaks the young adult mold as robber Billy. He comes in as relentless at first, but then begins to beg for his life. His chemistry with Tilda Cobham-Harvey is great as we see him go from his original relentless manners to one of both sympathy and empathy as he begins to relate to Melinda. Perhaps, it is just used as a ruse for him to escape or perhaps he really sees Melinda as someone who is desperate for attention and he finds himself willing to know her as she sees invisible to virtually everyone around her.

Suki Waterhouse brings both authority and a sense of being cocky in the role of fellow gas station attendant Sheila. She seems like the type of co-worker you may want to avoid as she sees Melinda as strange while she gets all the attention from the patrons. Harry Shum Jr.’s Officer Liu is seen as somewhat of a saving grace in terms of giving Melinda some attention despite her feeling invisible to the world. He also helps Melinda draw a fine line between her reality and her distorted fantasy world triggered by her “relationship” with Billy. Shiloh Fernandez’s Perry brings a sense of mystery to the film as well as perhaps someone who could be as shady as Billy.

Burn is both a tense and insane film that drives a fine line between reality and fantasy in terms of the character of Melinda, all driven by the performances of Tilda Cobham-Harvey and Josh Hutcherson, with excellent support from Suki Waterhouse and Harry Shum Jr. A great feature film debut from Mike Gan.

WFG RATING: B+

Momentum Pictures presents a Yale Productions film in association with Hopscotch Pictures, Particular Crowd, and Inwood Road Films. Director: Mike Gan. Producers: Russ Posternak, Michael J. Rothstein, Jordan Yale Levine, Sukee Chew, Ash Christian, and Jordan Beckerman. Writer: Mike Gan. Cinematography: Jon Keng. Editing: Marc Fusco.

Cast: Tilda Cobham-Harvey, Josh Hutcherson, Suki Waterhouse, Harry Shum Jr., Shiloh Fernandez, James Devoti, Wayne Pyle, John D. Hickman, Rob Figueroa, Winter-Lee Holland.

The film is coming to select theaters, On Demand, and Digital on August 23.

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