Despite the name, Buster's Mal Heart is an intriguing film that keeps one interested in all the details and is a complete heartbreaker when the film ends. I have to honestly say that while some climaxes are pretty predictable from the beginning, I only figured out this ending a few minutes before. Without giving away any spoilers, it wasn't a climax I wanted to happen but it brought the movie and screenplay full circle and completely answered all my questions.
One drawback was the many presentations of flashbacks, which could be confusing in the order of the storyline. I wish there had been some more titles on the scenes to delineate the time frame for the scenes. Nonetheless, Smith did an incredible job tying up all the knots and presenting a clear, concise storyline.
Part of the movie focuses on Rami Malek who plays Buster, a married man working at a hotel as a concierge on the night shift. One can clearly see that these night shifts are wearing on him as he tries to balance home life-- living with his in-laws who clearly can barely tolerate him - with his need to earn a living and buy land to support his family. During his shift one evening, he meets a man who wants a room (D.J. Qualls). This man has no ID or credit cards but does have a wild theory of the world. While Buster doesn't believe his theory, he takes pity on the man and tried to provide him with shelter. Unfortunately, their friendship takes on a partnership of delinquency and the dishonesty clearly plays on Buster's nerves. When Buster tries to cut the man off, the man begs for one more night. Trying to supervise the man to make sure nothing happens, Buster puts him in the room next to where his wife and daughter are having a "staycation".
The other part of the movie also focuses on Malek as Buster, but one three years down the road. He has become a thieving mountain man, off the grid, running from the law, muttering about an event called "The Inversion". Through the flashbacks, you have a feeling that something must have gone terribly wrong, as this Buster is void of his wife and daughter, but it is not until close to the end do you realize why he is alone and the reason is utterly heartbreaking. Buster doesn't have a bad heart- he has a completely shattered and broken heart that has cause his soul to wither away to nothing.
I have to be honest - upon immediate first impression, I thought this was a strange movie but I stuck it out and was absolutely blown away by the storyline. Buster was a caring character, one I became invested in because I wanted him to have his land, get away from his nasty and mean mother-in-law, and get a job on the day shift. Buster is a man who really has a good heart and tries to do the right thing, but in doing so, very bad things happen. I wish I knew exactly what The Inversion was and how Buster became obsessed with it but how he ended up as a mountain man being chased by the law was clear by the end of the film. Malek gives an excellent performance. He is quiet and unassuming in his portrayal of Buster which makes you sympathetic to his circumstances on more than one level.
D.J. Qualls is the interloper- the homeless man that is obsessed with "The Inversion". He tempts Buster in all sorts of ways without us even knowing what is happening. Quall's character doesn't have a name or a carbon footprint but he is devious-a point purposefully delayed until towards the end of the movie. Quall's plays the unsuspecting bad guy beautifully with a simplicity needed to form the storyline around the climax that influences the ending.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The codec is MPEG-4 AVC. Scenes in the hotel have a yellow-ish tint to it, which seems to complement the browns and neutral color scheme of the hotel scenes. The woods scenes seem to be bathed in blues and grays, which provide a natural feel for the forest and cave scenes. While the quality of the 1080p HD Blu-ray is exceptional, this is a film that should have been released in 4k, as the details of the forest and Malek's scraggly beard would have been even more exceptional.
The audio presentation is a clean and crisp DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Malek has a normally soft voice and even in parts where he spoke in whispered tones, his dialogue and emotion were clearly heard. Sound effects were pleasant and true- whether it was the water in the pool, the vacuum, walking in the woods, or gunfire.
Bonus features include a teaser and a trailer, as well as over 11 minutes of deleted scenes; specifically the following titled ones:
- The Conductor
- Roxy's Frog
- Break Time
- Throw A Line
- Grilled Cheese (Part 1 and 2)
- I Am Who I Am
I love bonus features and wish they would have had included an interview with Smith about her idea of the storyline (take note for a 4K UHD release!!).
Overall, Buster's Mal Heart is a solid film, with a solid storyline. It blended both elements of a psycho-thriller well without overdetailing the plot itself. Simple and straightforward, I am glad I had the opportunity to review this film and highly recommend the purchase of the Blu-ray.