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With: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Woody Harrelson, Peggy Lu, Little Simz
Written by: Kelly Marcel, based on a story by Tom Hardy, Kelly Marcel
Directed by: Andy Serkis
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material and suggestive references
Running Time: 97
Date: 10/01/2021

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Out of Bite

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A tone-deaf comedy that consists mainly of shouting, and an action movie that consists mainly of noise and smashing, this sequel misses every chance to come together as any kind of entertainment.

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is still learning how to live as a host to Venom, but his career is going well, even if his former partner Anne (Michelle Williams) has announced that she's going to marry Dr. Dan (Reid Scott). Eddie is asked to visit the cell of imprisoned serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). Kasady promises to let Eddie have an exclusive on his life story if he'll print a message, intended to go to Kasady's true love, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris); Frances is secretly imprisoned for possession of a deadly super-power. But Venom finds a clue as to the location of one of Kasady's victims, which condemns Kasady.

Making one final visit to his cell, Kasady bites Eddie and swallows some of his blood, turning him into Carnage, an even bigger and more deadly version of Venom. With both Carnage and Frances on the loose, Eddie must make peace with his other half and save the day.

Directed Andy Serkis, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which follows 2018's hit Venom, starts off with a supposedly comic situation as Eddie Brock and Venom argue and shout about how things are going to be. They're like a more violent, less funny version of Shrek and Donkey. The movie has no idea how to weave the situation of Venom occupying Eddie's body into clever or physical humor. It's all forced and graceless. Unlike, say, Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin in 1984's All of Me, every attempt at a situation here — such as Eddie ducking into a women's bathroom to argue with Venom — falls completely flat.

As Carnage, Harrelson sometimes manages a few wry line-readings, but he also frequently stumbles on his chunky, villainous dialogue, as does Harris. (This is the kind of movie wherein one of Carnage's first lines is "Let's get this party started!") Normally a bold performer, Williams perhaps fares the worst of anyone in the cast; in her one big scene, she's forced to use "feminine wiles" to convince Venom he's "sexy," just before she's kidnapped and held hostage for the rest of the movie.

The action is a blur, with mounting destruction and no human interest or consequences. It's difficult to care as either buildings crumble or victims are dispatched. On the plus side, the Venom visual FX are quite impressive, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage itself is swiftly-paced and over fairly quickly. (Even if the movie is bold enough, or clueless enough, to draw comparisons to it, Don Quixote this ain't.)

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