Carnage (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 8, 2012 by  

Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” film adaptation of the popular Yasmina Reza play is hilarious, chaotic and features magnificent performances by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.  Overall, “Carnage” is a film that is full of intense emotion and yet, I found this film to be quite captivating and enjoyable.  Recommended.

Images courtesy of © © 2011 SBS Productions, Constantin Film Produktion GmbH, SPI Film Studio, Versatil Cinema, S.L., Zanagar Films and France 2 Cinema. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Carnage

DURATION: 90 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and French 5.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language)

RELEASE DATE: March 20, 2012

Directed by Roman Polanski

Based on the play “Le Dieu du carnage” by Yasmina Reza

Screenplay by Yasmina Reza, Roman Polanski

Translation by Michael Katims

Produced by Said Ben Said

Co-Produced by Oliver Beren, Martin Moszkowicz

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Pawel Edelman

Edited by Herve de Luze

Casting by Fiona Weir

Production Design by Dean Tavoularis

Set Decoration by Franckie Diago

Costume Design by Milena Canonero


Jodie Foster as Penelope Longstreet

Kate Winslet as Nancy Cowan

Christoph Waltz as Alan Cowan

John C. Reilly as Michael Longstreet

Elvis Polanski as Zachay Cowan

Eliot Beerger as Ethan Longstreet

CARNAGE is a razor-sharp, biting comedy centered on parental differences. After two boys duke it out on a playground, the parents of the “victim” invite the parents of the “bully” over to work out their issues. A polite discussion of childrearing soon escalates into verbal warfare, with all four parents revealing their true colors. None of them will escape the carnage.Directed by Roman Polanski (The Pianist), Carnage stars Academy Award®-winner Kate Winslet (Best Actress, The Reader, 2008) and Academy Award®-winner Christoph Waltz (Best Supporting Actor, Inglourious Basterds, 2009) as husband and wife Nancy and Alan Cowan, opposite Academy Award®-winner Jodie Foster (Best Actress, The Silence of the Lambs, 1991; Best Actress, The Accused, 1988) and Academy Award®-nominee John C. Reilly (Best Supporting Actor, Chicago, 2002) as Penelope and Michael Longstreet.

Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” is hilarious, comedic chaos at its very best!  A wonderful performance by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.

In France, Yasmina Reza’s 2006 successful play “Le Dieu du carnage” (God of Carnage) is widely acclaimed.  Having received multiple awards and productions all over the world, the play received its film adaptation in 2011 courtesy of Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown”).

The film stars  Jodie Foster (“The Silence of the Lambs”, “Panic Room”, “Contact”), Kate Winslet (“Titanic”, “Revolutionary Road”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Christoph Waltz (“Inglorious Basterds”, “The Green Hornet”, “Water for Elephants”) and  John C. Reilly (“Magnolia”, “Boogie Nights”, “The Aviator”, “Step Brothers”).

The film would earn a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Actress” for Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet, including a Cesar Award nomination for “Best Writing – Adaptation” for Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza.

“Carnage” is set in New York City and we see a confrontation between two boys at the park.  One of the boys grabs a stick and slams it into another one’s face.

We then watch the parents of both boys discussing the matter.  The parents of the boy with the stick, investment broker Nancy Cowan (played by Kate Winslet) and her husband, corporate attorney Alan Cowan (played by Christoph Waltz) visits the home of the parents of the boy that was struck, writer Penelope Longstreet (played by Jodie Foster) and salesman Michael Longstreet (played by John C. Reilly).  The Longstreet’s child has been on codeine and may have lost a tooth permanently.

At first the conversation between the parents was cordial, the Cowans admit their son did something wrong and they apologize for their son’s actions. The Longstreet’s try to be good hosts as they provide apple and peach cobbler and some coffee.

As the meeting is about to end, things begin to escalate when Penelope feels the Conway’s son had disfigured their child’s face. Alan Cowan is shocked by Penelope’s use of words because she is saying that their son disfigured their child (which he didn’t).

As Michael tries to calm his wife down, the discussion then goes off on a tangent as Penelope talks about their daughter and how they had to get rid of her hamster.  Michael talks about how he left the hamster in its cage on the street curb.  Immediately, this sets Nancy Cowan off as she feels that what Michael did is inhumane.  Immediately, Nancy Cowan starts painting Michael as a murderer and this sets Michael off.

As the Conways try to leave the apartment once again, Alan gets a call from work about a possible lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company he represents.  And they are unable to leave and this sets Nancy off about how her husband is constantly working and on the phone.   Then more arguing ensues as Alan is upset that his wife is bringing out her anger about him to the Longstreet’s.  This time Nancy vomits all over the living room table on top of Penelope’s books (and also on her husband Alan).

As the Cowan’s try to clean off the vomit off their clothes, the Longstreet’s try to rescue Penelope’s “hard to find” books that were vomited on by using a hairdryer and perfume.  Meanwhile, as Longstreet’s talk badly about their guests, Alan Cowan overhears them and how they are mocking their “pet names” used for each other.  Trying to repair the situation, Michael tells them they also have dumb pet names and call each other “Darjeeling”.

Meanwhile, Penelope pushes the Cowan’s buttons even more by telling them that she wants the boys to meet and the Cowan’s son to apologize and know what he did is wrong.  Alan tells her that she can try but he’s 11-years-old and knows that what he did is wrong but not sure what the repercussions are because he is young.

This leads to a conversation of what the two boys were arguing about and we find out that the boy struck the Longstreet’s son because he was not allowed to join their gang.   This leads to Michael and Alan talking about their younger years and how they had their own gangs which upsets Penelope.  Next thing you know, it’s Penelope vs. her husband Michael and the two argue against each other in front of the Cowan’s.  This leads to Michael breaking out the alcohol and as the two men start drinking, it becomes a conversation about wives vs. husbands and arguments continue to escalate.

It becomes a full-on verbal warfare and all the flaws of each person is brought out.  Will the parents who are behaving like children accomplish anything positive through this meeting?


“Carnage” is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and audio in English, French 5.0 Dolby Digital.  Before I go on, it’s important to note that this film will be released on Blu-ray, so if you want the best picture and audio quality, I recommend watching it on HD.

With that being said, “Carnage” is a film that takes place entirely in a set featuring a living room, bathroom, hallway and computer room.  Most of the scenes of the film are in the living room.  So for those expecting a variety of scenes taking place in multiple locations, this is not one of those films.  “Carnage” is a film that focuses on characters, emotion and full-on verbal assaults.

On DVD, picture quality is good but of course, I’m sure you will see much more clarity and detail from the Blu-ray version.  As for the audio, dialogue is clear and heard no hiss or any problems at all.


“Carnage” comes with the following special features:

  • Actor’s Notes – (10:38) The cast of “Carnage” talk about the storyline and the characters they play.
  • An Evening with John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz – (38:01) Featuring an interview Q&A with “Carnage” actors John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz who talk about working on “Carnage”, working with Roman Polanski and more.
  • On the Red Carpet – (3:31) Interviews with the cast on the red carpet premiere.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:04) The original theatrical trailer for “Carnage”.

Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” film adaptation of the popular Yasmina Reza play is hilarious, chaotic and features magnificent performances by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.

I absolutely enjoyed this film to see how a simple conversation became complex and the intensity of the verbal assaults was hilarious and the performances, so powerful!   I have watched many films of conversations between individuals and there are some films such as “My Dinner with Andre” that focuses on a conversation but yet, becomes so witty and hilarious that you can’t help but appreciate the film.

The same goes for “Carnage”.  While I have not seen the play, what I enjoyed about this film is how these four talents were able to transform their characters from civilized parents discussing their children to this breakdown of their characters as all gloves are off and the worst comes out of their mouths not just against the other parents, but couples start to fight each other.  It becomes wife vs. husband, wife vs. wife, husband vs. husband, wives against the husbands, it’s just amazing how these adults lose control and I found the whole exchange quite hysterical.

While a short film compared to other Roman Polanski films, as always with Polanski, it’s attention to detail and subtlety and the way he was able to showcase the talent is amazing.  And you can’t go wrong when you have Academy Award winning talent cast in your film.  I enjoyed the performances by Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly but I just have to say that Jodie Foster in this film was absolutely fantastic!

When you literally can see and feel the anger coming off Foster’s character, it feels real, it looks real.  Her performance was amazing and I have no doubt that the other talents fed from that.  Not only did Foster deliver, you can see the anger in her face, the tension in her skin, the veins literally about to pop out, her performance was absolutely amazing!

If anything, I was more curious about John C. Reilly as he was cast opposite of Foster. At first I thought that the chemistry was good, but then when you find out that the two traveled through Africa, the credibility of the two as a couple felt a bit off.   Nevertheless, the actor also held his own and also brought a more calming effect towards the beginning of this film.  Also, his role required a little bit more action of having to clean up the vomit and having to use the hairdryer quite a bit.

And speaking of vomit, for those with a low-tolerance to films that showcase vomit, I just want to warn you right now that you’re going to see some vomit chunks in this film.

As for the DVD release, you get a hilarious Q&A segment with John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz, plus the talent talking about their characters and also seeing them on the red carpet.  As mentioned, for those who want better PQ and AQ, definitely go for the Blu-ray release but as for the DVD is concerned, the film looks and sounds very good on DVD and because most of the entire film is shot inside a living room and the film relies on character performance, some may feel that the DVD will be good enough.

As for the film’s title, “Carnage”, it has to do with the incident involving the children.  Jodie Foster as Penelope Longstreet rejects violence and wants civility, while Alan Cowan believes that his son and the use of physical force is part of humanity.  To see this mental breakdown among civilized people.

For example, Penelope is the writer who has covered Africa.  In the beginning, she is civil but once her beloved books have vomit all over them, we start to see her change.   We also see her change and side with Nancy Cowan on Michael’s treatment of the hamster.  We saw Michael being the calm one of the bunch but when his wife starts to unleash her anger towards him, we realize this conversation between these four adults is going nowhere.  But for the audience, it’s the intensity of their exchange, the escalation of the verbal assaults that become quite hysterical and amusing.

“Carnage” is a film that captivates you through escalating verbal assaults that lead to a chaotic disintegrating meeting between four adults who discuss their children’s incident.   While I have heard that the play has much more than the film adaptation, on its own, you can’t help but be amused by the wonderful performances by the talents.  Was it perfect?  Not at all, but the film does work and you can’t help but laugh at what you see happening before your eyes.  I found it absolutely amusing.

But of course, for some cinema fans, Roman Polanski taking on a dark comedy such as this, may seem like a step backwards or not in par compared to other films in his oeuvre.   It may not be one of his more memorable films but I do applause Roman Polanski trying something different.

Overall, “Carnage” is a film that is full of intense emotion and yet, I found this film to be quite captivating and enjoyable.  Recommended.

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