Fierce People (2005) starring Diane Lane, Anton Yelchin, Donald Sutherland, Chris Evans, Kristen Stewart, Paz de la Huerta, Blu Mankuma, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Shyer directed by Griffin Dunne Movie Review

Fierce People (2005)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Anton Yelchin and Diane Lane in Fierce People

Ishcanani means Fierce People

"Fierce People" is quite a strange little movie, starting of as a slightly humorous drama as a city kid gets immersed in the lifestyle of his mother's rich friends and then suddenly changes track and becomes very dark, losing all those lighter moments and focusing on what is an undeniably a disturbing storyline. Because of this I can't make my mind up as to who the target audience is or exactly how I feel about "Fierce People". It's just too mixed up and although both halves of the movie work, together they make it an uneasy movie to watch, maybe intentionally so.

When sixteen year old Finn (Anton Yelchin) gets busted for buying drugs for his mother Liz (Diane Lane - Under the Tuscan Sun), his plans to spend the summer researching the Ishcanani tribe in the Amazon with his father are thrown into disarray. Instead his mother packs them both off to live with one of her masseuse clients, Ogden C. Osborne (Donald Sutherland - The Italian Job) one of the richest men in America, in the hope that the change will help her to beat her addiction. Exploring the vast estate belonging to Osborne he becomes friends with Osborne's spoilt grandchildren Maya (Kristen Stewart - Twilight) and Bryce (Chris Evans - Cellular) as well as being taken under Osborne's own wing. But with family secrets being revealed danger lurks for young Finn.

Donald Sutherland as Ogden C. Osborne  in Fierce People

For the first half of "Fierce People" it would be easy to feel that it is just an average drama about class divides with a decent smattering of humour. The fact that Finn the New Yorker treats his time with the rich in New Jersey as an anthropological exploration gives the movie a nice touch. But it doesn't really feel like it's going anywhere and relies on the little moments of humour to keep you interested. Then it steps up a gear when Finn becomes part of the rich tribe as the spoilt grand children take him under their wing. Sadly although it steps up a gear it all feels like it's been done before, as if the various scenes of drinking, pot smoking and sexual encounters are all too similar to other movies. Whilst all this is going on there is a lightness about it, with elements such as drug taking never really focussed upon or shown in any real light.

But then suddenly all the lightness is drained out of "Fierce People", which is triggered by Finn being taken under the wing of the head of the family Ogden C. Osborne. This sudden change doesn't actually work as the movie becomes a very serious who done it, so to speak. I can sort of see that by going from light hearted to dark highlighted the contrasting storylines but it is such a forced mood change that you are left wondering as to what the emphasis of "Fierce People" is. Despite this the actual second part of the storyline is very good and if the whole movie had been portrayed in a more serious tone I actually think it would have been much better.

Performance wise well Diane Lane exchanges her usual role of sexy lead for that of a drug and alcohol addicted mother and despite being the lead star is in fact a more supporting role. It's by far not the best performance from Diane Lane but as the movie moves along her performance does grow and shows yet again that she is capable of playing various roles with an effortless naturalness. The real star of "Fierce People" is Anton Yelchin as her son Finn who is a joy to watch through out the movie. Yelchin is the one star who comes out of "Fierce People" having furthered his career showing not only that he is adept at subtle humour but also very good at the emotional side of a performance.

As for the others, well Donald Sutherland does a good job as the head of the Osborne family, although it is no where near to the powerful standards he demonstrated early on in his career. Elizabeth Perkins is demoted to such a minor role that her presence adds nothing to the movie. But the performance which did grate on me was that of Chris Evans who for some reason came across as a second rate Tom Cruise impersonator. I don't know why but for the most of "Fierce People" he seemed to be imitating the characteristics of Cruise from movies such as "Risky Business" and "The Color of Money" making his performance more annoying than anything else. Plus there is also Kristen Stewart who sadly had such a poorly developed character that it never really gave her the chance to shine although certain scenes will appeal to her male fans.

What this all boils down to is that having written this I am still struggling to work out how I feel about "Fierce People". At times it is very good delivering enjoyable light moments of social commentary and then it also has some exceptional moments of darkness when the storyline changes track. But together these elements don't mix and leaves you unsure as to whether you are watching a light hearted drama or a more serious one. It's worth a watch as the performance of Anton Yelchin is brilliant in both halves of the movie but I doubt it will be the most memorable of experiences.