Movie Review: She’s baaaaack — “Orphan: First Kill”

An “Orphan” sequel? The movie about the diminutive Eastern European girl with a sad case of the psychopaths?

It’s a little late for that. The original came out in 2009, and Isabelle Fuhrman — who gets plenty of work without sequels — isn’t 14 any more. I mean, come on.

That’s the prevailing sentiment for the first half or more of “Orphan: First Kill,” which brings our Estonian murderess back to North America for more mayhem. It’s bloody, and bloody ridiculous, and playing with camera perspective to make Fuhrman hobbit-sized is kind of an eye-roller, as effects go.

But we know the estimable Julia Stiles is in this thing. And in our minds, we make a covenant with the great performers. Stiles, who classes up everything she touches, had to see something in this. Julia won’t let us down. In Julia we trust.

And damned if she doesn’t deliver, as this grim march through murder curdles from Grand Guignol to laugh-out-loud hilarious.

A movie with the most cynical motives and barely any justification for existing turns into something fun.

Screenwriter David Coggeshall and director Willian Brent Bell go to a helluva lot of trouble figuring out how to get the much older, even more-cunning “Esther” out of a snow-covered Estonian hospital for the criminally insane, onto a computer where she can swap identities with a missing girl, and into America.

They remind us of the dwarfism that was the Big Reveal in “Orphan,” that this “child” is actually an adult. Then after finessing that, they park her back “home” with a rich American family (Stiles, Rossif Sutherland and Matthew Finlan) whose daughter disappeared years before. “Esther” is back!

The child’s disappearance left her painter-father (Sutherland) bereft, and the detective (Hiro Kanagawa) they leaned up to track her down frustrated. But now that she’s back, Allen can pick up the brush for his black light luminescent paintings (Don’t tell Julian Schnabel about this!), champion fencer big brother Gunnar can go back to looking after her and Mom can revel in the light, purpose and even romance that this return heralds.

Or can she? Might the detective, or the family shrink or something or someone else trip up our little piano playing pickpocket? Has Esther gotten even better at covering her tracks?

The first two acts set up the challenges and deliver violence and manage to become a serious drag. The third act to “First Kill” finally manages a jaw-dropping moment or two. But mostly, it’s about over-the-top laughs, and Stiles and Fuhrman throw themselves at it with all the “I have profit participation” gusto they have in them.

No, it’s not subtle, not droll or particularly arty. It’s not even all that horrific, despite the grisly nature of the violence.

But it is something to see. And Julia Stiles, dear, you’ll have to forgive us for ever doubting you.

Rating:  R for bloody violence, language and brief sexual content

Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Matthew Finlan and Hiro Kanagawa.

Credits: Directed by William Brent Bell, scripted by David Coggeshall. A Paramount+ release.

Running time: 1:39

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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