Jake Gyllenhaal destroying an expensive set of drawers with a mallet can't save this unconvincingly surreal dramady

Steve Hogarty
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Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't mind people leaning on his car

Demolition | ★★☆☆☆ | Dir. Jean-Marc Vallé

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Davis, a businessman who escapes unscathed from the car crash that killed his wife. His reaction is stunned. He disconnects from reality, listlessly ghosting about the place like a sad mannequin, forcing out tears in front of a bathroom mirror and trying to fake up a feeling or two at his wife’s wake.

What at first appears to be a story of survivor’s guilt instead transpires to be a story about an deeply unlikeable character’s flawed as hell personality. Davis seems incapable of feeling emotion and, following an M&M’s based quibble, begins to tell his life story in a series of twee complaint letters to a vending machine company.

It’s the film’s first nod towards surreality, but the quirkiness of the main character comes across as silly and conceited, like a genre-busting idea badly transplanted from a crap Coen brothers film. The world that Davis inhabits is too grounded in reality to contain flights of fancy, and by the time he’s falling in love with the equally kooky woman from the vending machine company, you won’t quite know whether you’re watching a jokeless black comedy or a directionless drama.

The name is derived from Davis’s deconstructive coping mechanism, which sees Gyllenhaal repeatedly smashing kitchens to smithereens with a selection of mallets, saws and JCBs over many arduous minutes. About as pointless as everything else in the film, it’s at least cathartic to watch someone destroy a granite work surface with a big hammer.

It’s a shame, however, that he couldn’t go further and turn his tools on the camera, lights and studio fixtures hiding behind the set, destroying everything in his path and preventing this weirdly vacant and ultimately unsatisfying film from ever having been made.

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