Title – Blaze (2018)
Director – Ethan Hawke (The Hottest State)
Cast – Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Linklater, Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Charlie Sexton, Wyatt Russell
Plot – An examination of American bluegrass singer/songwriter Blaze Foley (Dickey) and his troubled life as a performer, partner, alcoholic and friend.
“I don’t want any shenanigans from you tonight”
Review by Eddie on 05/11/2019
After many years in the industry, working with some of the best directors around and collaborating with some of the brightest actors of all-time has no doubt embedded actor/director Ethan Hawke with a healthy dose of film-making nuance.
Utilising his years’ worth of skill development and expertise, Hawke has previously released feature films Chelsea Walls and The Hottest State, but with his newest venture Blaze, based around the true story of Texas musician Blaze Foley, Hawke has filmed a unique musical biopic with some memorable acting turns too truly make his mark behind the camera, not just in front of it.
With so many music founded biopics coming our way in all many shapes and forms, it’s always special when a biopic with a different flavour finds its way into our viewing habitats and with its fresh delivery, eye capturing Southern America surrounds and standout lead performance from musician/actor Ben Dickey as Foley, Blaze is a fever dream like experience that may take a while to warm up to, but once it does, you will be under its charming spell.
Centred around a fateful live performance in Foley’s career, a radio interview (with Hawke the hidden interviewer) with two of his band-mates who are reminiscing about the performer and Foley’s dreamlike times with the love of his life Sybil (played energetically by Ali Shawkat), Blaze treads a path less trodden in its examination of a flawed but talented individual whose mark on the musical scene is still felt to this day.
With Foley living a far from normal lifestyle, moving from a home in the wilderness, couch hoping and living gig to gig, Hawke ensures Blaze feels like we are kept on the hop also, unable to feel comfortable with any run of the mill occurrences as Foley’s tumultuous and ever-changing mindset and life become the very crux of the film.
Its off-putting at first, but before long you get swept up in the way in which Foley’s story is unfolding before your eyes, feeling every ounce of passion in his songs, hurting at his pain that is so often evident to all and falling under the spell of a man that could be as charming as he was frustrating.
Due to this nature there are times we’re it would’ve been nice to stop and smell the roses for a little longer, allowing us more emotional investment and knowledge gathering but with Foley’s music front and centre and Dickey fully inhabiting a larger than life character with a plethora of heart and soul, the unique life of Foley is brilliantly bought to feature film life by Hawke, who quite clearly had a strong affiliation and care for his subject matter.
Final Say –
Far from a straight forward biopic of an anything but orthodox musician and person, Blaze is a strong new addition to Ethan Hawke’s increasingly growing collection of cinematic wins that is bought to life by a wonderful understanding of its subject matter and an awards worthy turn from Ben Dickey.
3 ½ mid-gig fist fights out of 5