Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lukas Haas, Chloe Bridges, Sarah Rafferty, Bodhi Elfman, Jocelin Donahue
Written by: Mario Carvalhal
Directed by: Mike Testin
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 85
Date: 07/10/2020

Browse (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Side Swipe

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In a perfect world, this thriller, with its onslaught of stomach-churning "oh no!" moments, would have had a point, something that connected it all together, or at least a conclusion, but it doesn't.

In Browse, Richard Coleman (Lukas Haas) lives in a rent-controlled apartment with rented furniture, works an unsatisfying tech-related job, and is depressed over the loss of his ex-girlfriend (Jocelin Donahue). He tries online dating and is excited to connect with a beautiful woman, Veronica (Chloe Bridges), who not only lives nearby, but suggests that they meet. She fails to show up, and Richard's life begins to fall apart.

His auto-payments from his bank are not being made, he is asked to lay off several co-workers — including his friend Claire (Sarah Rafferty) — and Veronica reports him to the police as a stalker. A woman he sleeps with posts a video of the two of them together, and Kyle (Bodhi Elfman), who works in Richard's building, keeps bringing up the grisly story of a man who committed suicide on the roof. Then, Richard receives a mysterious package.

There have been many "paranoid thriller" movies about a person's life going horribly wrong on all fronts, but there is usually either a bad guy engineering and manipulating the whole thing, or otherwise there's some kind of commentary about the nature of our society. Browse has neither. It has at least two or three supporting characters that could have been responsible for Richard's downfall, but the movie never reveals which one, or, indeed, if anyone at all was responsible. Moreover, its bizarre ending — going right to the edge but not taking the final leap — leaves us asking, "what was that all about?"

Browse is certainly an intriguing movie, with its fascinating cast of characters, its odd touches (like the plastic-covered furniture), and its dark way of generating dread-filled suspense. Each new bad thing that happens to Richard is like a sickening drop of the other shoe.

The otherworldly-looking Haas is perfect for the lead role, shabby and shambling perhaps a half-step behind everyone else. Meanwhile, the supporting cast seems to operate at a slightly escalated speed, knocking things off-kilter. But, ultimately, all this stuff simply doesn't add up to anything, and it leaves off as unsatisfying as a stood-up date.

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