Black Flies


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Black Flies
"The pace is relentless and raucous - so much so that many viewers will feel alienated." | Photo: Cannes Film Festival

Dealing with the underbelly of New York city through the exploits of a paramedics team, this slick thriller makes for unsettling and unpleasant viewing.

Helmed by French director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, it works the same territory of the likes of Taxi Driver and other exposés of crime and grime in the Big Apple.

Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan make a contrasted couple of paramedics for whom blood and gore and much more besides are part of the daily grind as they try to save multiple lives.

Penn plays the grizzled veteran racing around the city in attempt to save the afflicted, with the knowledge that few of them are likely to survive. Sheridan plays the young rookie who signs on for the roller coaster to help to pay his rent.

The script is based on a novel by Shannon Burke which appeared in 2008. The original setting was Harlem in the 1990s but it has been updated by the screenwriters, Ben MacBrown and Ryan King, to take place in the rough parts of Brooklyn in the present day.

Seeing the worst of humanity at the worst of times takes its toll on the psyche of the team, who begin to crack up as their personal lives start to become affected.

The pace is relentless and raucous - so much so that many viewers will feel alienated. It’s difficult to muster much empathy with the characters and tricky to avoid a sense of alienation. Many of the cases are so bad that they are beyond saving, which means some tough decisions about who dies and who is saved.

The black flies are the insects that gather on the corpses. You are left with the distinct impression that it has all been seen before and to better effect.

Reviewed on: 21 May 2023
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A young paramedic makes his way through his first year on the job in New York City.

Director: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Writer: Ben Mac Brown, Ryan King, based on the book by Shannon Burke

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Sean Penn, Michael Pitt, Katherine Waterston, Mike Tyson, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Raquel Nave, Kali Ries

Year: 2023

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: US


Cannes 2023

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