Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) – Review

Velvet Buzzsaw is now streaming on Netflix.

[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]

By David Cuevas

I’ve been following Dan Gilroy’s filmography since 2014, after his absolute stunner of a directorial debut that is Nightcrawler, which is to this very day, one of my favorite films of the decade. Two years following his near masterpiece level debut, Dan writes and directs Roman J. Israel, Esq., a middling and overall unsatisfying follow up to Nightcrawler. Roman J. isn’t a bad film per se, however, it’s certainly not as thrilling, nor smart, nor as cohesive compared to Dan’s previous piece.

Now, with Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan is returning to his original casting duo from his first film, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo at the helm, to create Netflix’s latest venture; A supernatural satire of frightening proportions. This could have made for some ghoulish fun, but at the end of the day, Velvet Buzzsaw ended up being quite the dreadful experience. The moment Velvet Buzzsaw finished, was the moment I gave up on Gilroy’s future filmography and cult-like following.

Shot like a TV Pilot, and written on a diet of pure mind-numbing obnoxiousness, Velvet Buzzsaw is a bland critique of the art world, from all external perspectives. It brings nothing new to the table and instead adds more unnecessary filler to an already convoluted and pompous product. It’s mean spirited tone and overall story structure makes for what is incredibly dull and lifeless entertainment, with each scene passing by becoming more irritating and tasteless. From Gyllenhaal’s overtly wacky SNL-like performance to Zawe Ashton’s one-note role, each and every one of the characters which appear in Velvet Buzzsaw simply fuel more anguish into this poorly written and totally bonkers mess. It’s not thrilling, nor is it comedic. It’s just a waste.

Here’s a lesson for all future filmmakers. Just because your film is about art snobs, doesn’t mean that your film has to embody everything wrong about them. Velvet Buzzsaw is the aborted lovechild of Gilroy’s blind eye to the art world. It’s Final Destination meets The Square (2017) meets Ruben Brandt, Collector, yet doesn’t manage to reach the imaginative heights or creative innovativeness of said listed films for that manner. Velvet Buzzsaw is the final farewell to what could have been the mid-term spark of a great filmmaker. In return, we got this mess, a terribly directed, poorly edited and performed misfire that fails to compel or even spark conversation. It’s a chore at worst, and a derivative pastime activity at best. Farewell Dan Gilroy. At least you tried!

I give Velvet Buzzsaw a D+.