Ned Rifle movie poster

Director Hal Hartley caps off his Henry Fool Trilogy (after 1997's Henry Fool and 2006's Fay Grim), with the story of Ned Rifle (Liam Aiken), the teenaged son of the aforementioned Henry and Fay. The boy is fresh out of witness protection, and while he's full of the piety of his Christian protectors (he can say "I'm chaste" with the same directness that most folks use to say "I'm hungry"), he's still hell-bent on killing Dad for ruining Mom's life. But his mission is complicated by the presence of an unstable grad student (Aubrey Plaza, venturing into Fairuza Balk territory) who has her own complicated history to resolve. Hartley is at his Hartleyest here, meaning, among other things, that a fair chunk of the dialogue sounds like a pronouncement, aimed as much at the viewer as it is at another character, and often having to do with Hartley's view of himself, the world, and his place in it. (That place is very much in the realm of arrant knaves, crawling between earth and heaven, simultaneously lamenting and celebrating an outsider status.) It is not, as they say, for everyone. But if it is for you, it's great fun, and the conclusion — when the philosophy finally gives way to (or possibly culminates in) sex and violence — is as satisfying as it is preposterous. 2015.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.


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