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'The Devil All the Time' strands its super-star cast in a grim Netflix thriller

September 16, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Adapting Dale Ray Pollock's grim novel, awful characters proceed along parallel tracks, en route to a whole lot of violence and unpleasantness.

(CNN)The casting alone should spur interest in "The Devil All the Time" -- Batman (Robert Pattinson) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), together at last -- but can't make the movie feel like less of a slog.

Pollock actually serves as the movie's (frequently used) narrator, and he's a folksy natural, adding literary authenticity to director Antonio Campos' film.

Yet other than attracting an inordinately good lineup of players -- many in relatively minor roles -- the dutiful nature of the adaptation drains much of the life out of the movie.

Simply put, "The Devil All the Time" has the texture of a Coen brothers film, with a dash of "L. A. Confidential" in terms of the music and period.

Indeed, those drawn by the aforementioned super-stars should be forewarned neither appears till more of a third of the way through the movie, which begins in 1957, flashes back to a soldier returning home from World War II and, before it's over, jumps ahead to the days of escalation in Vietnam, encompassing a roughly 20-year span.

As is, the film essentially lurches from one character to the next, in a way that feels unavoidably episodic, and leaves some talented players -- Haley Bennett and Mia Wasikowska among them -- with little to do.

The character certainly offers a different side of Holland, who is among the few afforded any significant screen time to exhibit much in the way of compassion or humanity.

Of course, just assembling this cast represents a promotional coup for Netflix, likely to land the movie on its most-popular list, amid a push that involves scheduling high-profile features each week at a time when the theatrical business remains hobbled.

And with "The Devil All the Time," the missteps reside in more than just the details.

"The Devil Next Time" premieres Sept.

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