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The thrill of thrillers

The typical movie you expect to find at a film festival is concerned with art first and commerce second, often more interested in evoking a feeling or creating a particular aesthetic mood than in telling an exciting story. CineVegas has always been willing to program slightly more mainstream Indiewood fare in its Sure Bets section, and the occasional genre film in its Area 52 section, but the meat of the festival, the Jackpot Premieres, is usually filled with serious, artistic dramas (which are often very good). This year's premieres include two thrillers, though, and another shows up in the Diamond Discoveries section. The premiere thrillers, Daylight and Godspeed, both temper their suspense plots and violent outbursts with serious concerns, and are clear efforts at creating something more than your average crime story.

They meet with mixed levels of success (Godspeed ultimately working a little better), but the Australian film noir The Square, which opened theatrically in its native country but has yet to achieve U.S. distribution, works masterfully, and is probably my favorite film of the festival so far. It's less overtly meaningful, but in the process of telling a story about murder, blackmail and double-crosses, it presents fully realized human characters, a strong sense of place and a powerful emotional hook. Sometimes the most affecting movies are the ones that seem most conventional on the surface.

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