Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: If you only watch one art-world satire with horror overtones this year -- or most others -- it should probably be Velvet Buzzsaw.

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Velvet Buzzsaw is a satirical thriller set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles, where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce.

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Critic Reviews for Velvet Buzzsaw

All Critics (139) | Top Critics (21)

It comes within an inch of a really snappy disquisition (to use Morf's word) on the painting marketplace, but to avoid disappointment it's better approached as a gory romp.

Feb 14, 2019 | Full Review…

Velvet Buzzsaw has the kind of bite that leaves a mark.

Feb 1, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

A film that's every bit as shiny and hollow as those colorful balloon animals that Jeff Koons has sold for millions of dollars.

Feb 1, 2019 | Rating: C | Full Review…

"Velvet Buzzsaw" has fun sending up the pretentiousness of the art world and its collective clamoring to discover the Next Big Thing, but it loses its bite as it morphs into a directionless horror romp.

Feb 1, 2019 | Rating: C | Full Review…

Its ideas are silly, but Jake Gyllenhaal delivers them with such goofy passion that who cares?

Feb 1, 2019 | Full Review…
Slate
Top Critic

With a roster including Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Toni Collette, director Dan Gilroy's L.A. art-scene thriller has tons of promise - until the violence breaks out.

Feb 1, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Velvet Buzzsaw

½

YES, BUT IS IT ART?  - My Review of VELVET BUZZSAW (2 1/2 Stars) I loved Dan Gilroyï¿ 1/2(TM)s NIGHTCRAWLER. It remains one of my favorite films of 2014. I didnï¿ 1/2(TM)t see his follow-up, ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ., for no other reasons than I never found the time or felt the urgency. I got excited, however, about his latest, VELVET BUZZSAW upon learning he had Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo (Gilroyï¿ 1/2(TM)s wife) back together again. Furthermore, it featured a a satirical/slasher storyline which literally and figuratively skewered the art world. Pretentious snobs meeting their maker? Where do I sign? Unfortunately, Gilroy doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t quite deliver a fully satisfying satire or thriller, leaving the film a gorgeously shot, unevenly acted half-measure. Gyllenhaal stars as a top art critic named Morf Vandewalt (not kidding), a gesticulating, bisexual, bespectacled snooty-snoot who wields more power than is credible in making or breaking careers. We live in a world where Instagram likes trump good newspaper reviews, but Morf(!) rules the day here, and so we go with it. Heï¿ 1/2(TM)s surrounded by a community of self-serious snobs and cutthroat types, including Rene Russoï¿ 1/2(TM)s as a named dealer Rhodora Haze(!), Gretchen, a rival dealer with a blond bob played by Toni Collette, a strange agent named Jon Dondon(!) played by Tom Sturridge, a couple of humorless artists played by David Diggs and John Malkovich, and Rhodoraï¿ 1/2(TM)s long-suffering lackey Josephina (Zawe Ashton). The roster of names alone could serve as its own satire. One day, amidst all of the artistic bitchery, Josephina stumbles upon her dead neighbor, an unknown artist who left instructions that all of his work be destroyed at his death. Grasping the beauty of his work, haunting Francis Bacon-style tableaus, Josephine instead commodifies it and with Rhodoraï¿ 1/2(TM)s guidance, sets the art world on fire. This clearly doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t sit well with someone as one-by-one, these art freaks keep getting killed. Suddenly, weï¿ 1/2(TM)re in a film where FRIDAY THE 13TH meets the Amy Adams parts of NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, which on paper sounds amazing. What we get is half-baked on both ends. As a satire, Gilroy has given us a parade of thoroughly repulsive characters. I understand itï¿ 1/2(TM)s the point of the whole affair, but that doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t make it fun to watch. I suppose Josephina comes the closest to serving as an empathetic character, but sheï¿ 1/2(TM)s such a collection of nervous tics and bad moods that I didnï¿ 1/2(TM)t really care where her fate lied. I applaud Gilroy for writing such assertive characters for his wife, but Rene Russo, besides carrying the filmï¿ 1/2(TM)s title in a tattoo on her clavicle, has very little to do here except bust everyoneï¿ 1/2(TM)s chops. Worst of all, Gyllenhaal has clearly entered the experimental/character actor phase of his career. Rejecting bland leading roles has merit. It worked for Johnny Depp until he turned into a cartoon of himself, and I fear Jake may fall down the same rabbit hole. Still, Iï¿ 1/2(TM)d rather see him work with interesting directors in offbeat roles than in some schlocky comic book movie, but he may wish to dial back on the mannerisms sometimes. All told, the satirical elements only add up to tell us what we already know - that the art world consists of vicious egomaniacs whose tastes in art are as ridiculous as their outfits. As a slasher film, VELVET BUZZSAW doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t quite work either. Except for one clever kill involving a shiny sculpture you stick your whole arm into, none of the deaths will delight the Fangoria crowd and the whodunnit aspects neither deliver nor satisfy. I like the title of the film, but as itï¿ 1/2(TM)s explained in the movie, as a backstory for one of its characters, it really doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t resonate. Same goes for the movie itselfï¿ 1/2a fun but forgettable and meaningless splat.

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

Was I disappointed? Taking in to consideration the fact that I'm being delivered Velvet Buzzsaw by the same writer, director, and star as Nightcrawler, honestly, yes. But that is a very high bar to try and meet, falling short of it is none too heinous an offence. On its own merits, Velvet Buzzsaw features some magnificent acting, cool effects, engaging plotline, despicable characters and a hefty dose of originality. It's not a perfect film, it's probably not even a great film, but I've started years off in far worse ways before.

Gimly M.
Gimly M.

Super Reviewer

½

If you want to read the review I wrote for this, go to letterboxd.com/HankIsDead514. I can no longer post longer reviews on here. I'm not writing two separate reviews for the same movie.

Jesse Ortega
Jesse Ortega

Super Reviewer

Ever since the release of Nightcrawler back in 2014, Dan Gilroy is a director that Iâ(TM)ve wanted to keep a sharp eye on. Iâ(TM)ll admit I wasnâ(TM)t a big fan of his film Roman J. Israel Esq., but I was still impressed by his talent, enough to continue watching his future projects. Velvet Buzzsaw is his latest work that he both wrote and directed and while I did enjoy some of it, this director only has one home run in my book, which still remains to be Nightcrawler. Some viewers may find this film to be pretentious and others may find it elegant, which will stir up a great conversation, but I personally found that it fell somewhere in the middle. If youâ(TM)re a fan of a unique premises, you may want to check this one out. There isnâ(TM)t really a main character here, but it could be argued that the central focus of the film is on Jake Gyllenhaalâ(TM)s Morf. After the passing of an elderly man, his paintings are discovered and put on display for all to see. To their surprise, these paintings have minds of their own and they begin to seek revenge against those who study them in the wrong ways. Personally, the concept of this film intrigued me upon first glance, but after watching the film unfold, it felt like more of a way of finding viewers for the movie as a whole. The bizarre turn this film takes didnâ(TM)t feel earned by the time the film concludes. With a strong first act and a weird second act, this movie lost all potential throughout the third. I must admit that this is one of the better assembled casts Iâ(TM)ve seen in a long time. From powerhouses like Jake Gyllenhaal and Toni Collette to the always outstanding performances given by both John Malkovich and Rene Russo, down to stellar newcomers like Natalia Dyer and Daveed Diggs, I found myself engaged no matter what was happening throughout an uninteresting scene, due to the fact that theyâ(TM)re clearly all devoted. If for nothing else, this cast believed they were making something terrific and it really shows in each and every one of their performances. Sadly, as I mentioned, this film as a very weak third act that went in many ways that felt easy for the movie to go. Aside from some very cool visuals and great cinematography throughout the entire film, the story, in retrospect, kind of went nowhere. I could see where director Dan Gilroy was trying to go and the final scene of the film definitely showcases an interesting future for the story, but I wasnâ(TM)t engaged in the story enough to care all that much. The characters invested me from the very beginning and the twist pulled me in even more, but the movie unravels in a way that frankly bored me. In the end, Velvet Buzzsaw is an ambitious film in terms of the notions that it tries to explore and wow its audience with, but I was underwhelmed by it as a whole. I definitely commend the technical aspects of it and the set-up was very well done, so I can recommend it to film buffs, but I truly donâ(TM)t believe this film will find a home outside of that circle. I could be wrong, but I feel this movie is for a very niche audience. Velvet Buzzsaw is an impressively ambitious film that feels a little wasted by the end.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

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