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'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' is as silly as its title — and that’s a good thing

The film occasionally exhausts but mostly delights

<p>Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy, an investigative reporter who also happens to be genetically bonded to an alien symbiote named Venom, finds himself drawn into the case of Cletus Kasady, a serial killer played by Woody Harrelson.</p>

Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy, an investigative reporter who also happens to be genetically bonded to an alien symbiote named Venom, finds himself drawn into the case of Cletus Kasady, a serial killer played by Woody Harrelson.

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is as ridiculous and heightened as its goofily excessive title. An ungainly, delirious comic book film with nary a single hint of restraint or good taste, but the film’s nonsensical energy is both its greatest strength and, by the end of it, what makes it somewhat of an exhausting experience. It’s hard not to feel a little worn out by the climax, a noisy and frequently incoherent action sequence, but there are plentiful laughs and moments of fun to be had along the way. The movie’s goofball energy is mostly infectious.

Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy, an investigative reporter who also happens to be genetically bonded to an alien symbiote named Venom, finds himself drawn into the case of Cletus Kasady, a serial killer played by Woody Harrelson. Things get even more complicated when Kasady bonds with an alien symbiote of his own, an offspring of Venom’s who goes by the name of Carnage, and escapes from prison prior to a scheduled lethal injection. Eager to reunite with his childhood love, a woman with superhuman powers played by Naomie Harris, Kasady and Carnage set off on a collision course with Brock and Venom.

There’s not much more to the narrative than that, which unfolds at a breakneck pace and often feels sloppily conceived. Central character motivations are unexplained, key plot points are rushed over and multiple narrative threads are left unresolved by the time the movie concludes. 

Honestly, this messiness often feels as much like a virtue as a drawback — it only feels natural in a film that hurtles from scene to scene with reckless abandon, rarely dwelling on logic or coherency and frequently choosing to instead emphasize interpersonal relationships, comedy and ridiculous superhero spectacle.

This path ends up being a mostly successful approach. It helps that the combative relationship between Brock and Venom, the true focus of the movie, provides for such a winning dynamic and loads of physical comedy. Hardy’s strange and expressive performance accounts for much of this portion’s success — chewing scenery with both a strange accent and a raspy alien growl, depending on which character he’s playing, he carries a magnetic and strange screen presence. 

There’s also just something inherently funny about this movie’s conception of their co-dependent relationship. One particularly inspired scene finds Venom in a brawl with Brock in his apartment, the two of them preying on each other’s emotions and foibles while throwing each other into walls and floors.

Other winning moments find the erratic Brock trying to contain Venom’s animalistic and violent impulses, with this internal back-and-forth only making him look like more of a lunatic to all of the clueless bystanders around him. As earlier mentioned, Hardy completely sells these scenes — his unhinged energy is perfect for the central role and the ridiculous events proceeding around him.

The film is also filled with extravagant action spectacle, which entirely embraces the same cartoonish spirit and disregard for coherency as the rest of the film. Several of these scenes, such as Carnage and Kasady’s elaborate escape from prison, are filled with inventive visuals and a high degree of raw energy. However, at a certain point, the noisy chaos begins to become more exhausting than entertaining. The explosive climax, where Venom engages in an extended duel with Carnage inside of an abandoned church, becomes numbing and feels more confused than creative.

Still, despite this somewhat dispiriting conclusion, it’s hard not to admire a film that’s this full of exuberance and wackiness. The sum total may be a bit wearying, but when Venom is giving an impassioned speech at a rave or Hardy is performing one of his indelible comedic back-and-forths, the results are too fun and funny to ignore.

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