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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Unsane

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

I once watched an episode of “Judge Judy” where she admonished a woman for not reading the fine print before signing a contract. Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) in “Unsane” could have used the same advice.

Not that Sawyer is without issues. She was forced to move away from her hometown of Boston after an incident with a stalker. While she may be physically free of him, she is not mentally free of him. She still has flashes where she sees his face. These flashes come at inopportune times, like just as she is about to get into some love making with a random stranger.

After meeting with a counselor (Myra Lucretia Taylor) about the flashes, she’s asked to sign some paperwork. Trusting that the counselor is being truthful as to the contents of what is written, she signs without reading. Big mistake. Next thing she knows, friendly orderly Dennis (Zach Cherry) is looking through her bag and not so friendly Nurse Boles (Polly McKie) is asking her to strip. Shortly thereafter, she’s in a co-ed dormitory room and stuck at the facility so that she can be evaluated.

“Unsane” starts to go off in an interesting direction involving Sawyer’s fellow patient Nate (Jay Pharoah). The movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh from a script by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, looks like it may follow in the footsteps of the director’s acclaimed drug expose “Traffic” (2000) but be about insurance scams in the mental health industry. Those elements are there, but they become more of a backdrop to a story that takes a more suspenseful, psychological thriller approach.

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The question for Sawyer becomes whether one of the new orderlies dispensing medication is her stalker. Played by Joshua Leonard with a quiet reserve, the man seems innocent enough. In contrast, Sawyer only makes things worse for herself by flying off the handle and making wild accusations about the man. Did her flashes of her stalker’s face completely take over her mind, or did the guy actually follow her to Boston and get a job as an orderly just to be near her?

The answer to the question is revealed, and the answer is cause to contemplate on the nature of insanity. Who is insane and who isn’t, and how do we know? The sub plot about insurance scams wraps up in a compelling way, but the bigger questions surrounding them are left open.

This makes sense, since “Unsane” is not a big movie. It was shot in ten days using the iPhone 7 Plus in 4K using the app FiLMiC Pro. It’s a story about the struggle of its main character and her mental issues. Some crafty lens choices are used to visually demonstrate her mental state. More than anything, this movie proves that with one camera, a couple of lenses, and a modest budget, anyone can make a movie. Though, it does help to have the creativity and experience of Steve Soderbergh to make something worthwhile out of the project. Being chummy enough with Matt Damon to get him to do an uncredited cameo helps too. Rent it.

Also New This Week

Pacific Rim: Uprising

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” perfectly embodies that standard of mindless Hollywood entertainment. It has a rehashed, save the world plot. Stock characters, like the prodigal maverick (John Boyega), his straight-laced former friend (Scott Eastwood), and the promising newcomer with a tragic past and something to prove (Cailee Spaeny), must put their differences aside to fight the big enemy. In this case, it’s some rogue Jaegers and a new Kaiju threat.

The movie has a sleek, high budget feel. I couldn’t help but note that “Pacific Rim: Uprising” is what “Independence Day” would be like if the aliens were replaced with giant monsters and the movie was directed by Michael Bay. There certainly is enough bloated, citywide destruction and plenty of buildings crumbling after getting smashed to make Bay grin from ear to ear.

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Even the dialogue hits all of the stock notes at all of the right times. The stockiest stock moment is when Boyega’s character tells a group of new recruits that he is not like his dad (Idris Elba’s character from the first “Pacific Rim”), who would give them an inspirational speech. He then proceeds to launch into an inspirational speech, much like his dad would have given, that’s every bit as off the shelf as to be expected.

What it all adds up to is a lot of style and not much substance. It’s one of those movies where after it’s over, about ninety percent of what you just witnessed will have evaporated. There is nothing particularly bad or insulting here, which is good, but at the same time nothing really stands out. It’s just there, playing out in front of you, and then it’s done. I’m sure the intention is to get moviegoers excited enough to see the inevitable sequel that is hinted at toward the end. But with fluff this light, it’s hard to really care. Stream it.

More New Releases: “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” about the man who went from the most infamous persecutor of Christians to Jesus Christ's most influential apostle, starring Jim Caviezel, Olivier Martinez, and James Faulkner; and “Midnight Sun,” about a young woman confined to her house due to a rare disease that makes sunlight deadly to her, starring Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Rob Riggle.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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