Slice is a small movie with big dreams and aspirations. It’s the directorial debut of first time director Austin Vesely, a long time friend and collaborator of Chance the Rapper, making the transition from music videos to feature film. And boy does he make his name known loud and clear.
Slice is one of the most creative, stylish films of the year, which has seemingly become the norm for any film with the A24 logo in front of it. Does the ghost-werewolf crime caper blend it’s genres together like tasty mozzarella cheese? Or is the film dead on arrival? A little bit of both: let’s discuss.
“Slice blends elements of slashers, noir, dark comedy, and body horror into something pretty tasty.”
Slice itself is like a pizza: thin, greasy goodness that’s amazing at first, but makes you question your choices by the end, wondering if it was worth the temporary satisfaction. The anticipation of the delivery make the first few bites taste like heaven, but the rest of the pizza doesn’t compare and definitely won’t be the same when you go back for leftovers. There is a lot of movie going on and the introduction to the world of Slice is fantastic. From the first few minutes, I already knew I was getting immersed into a world I’d fall in love with. We enter a community where humans and ghosts live together in peace (mostly), and witches & werewolves are a thing of the past. There is a lot going on in Slice but with a clear and admittedly strange tone, it mostly works.
Austin Vesely, who wrote the script in addition to directing and co-starring, is a deeply inventive creator. Slice is clearly about the world and characters, more than the story. In this strange supernatural universe, there are no true heroes and villains. You have Astrid (played by Zazie Beets of Deadpool 2), a drug dealing pizza delivery driver out for vengeance. There’s Dax (Chance the Rapper in his film debut), an estranged werewolf trying to clear his name. And also an ensemble cast of quirky characters to love. Vesely’s screenplay excels at giving his characters hilariously snappy dialogue, a lot of which is very tongue-in-cheek. It makes the world relatable, while also reminding you that you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Slice is ridiculously stylized, utilizing fantastic transitions and an atmosphere that puts you in the center on this crazy world. The tone is set immediately with an animated credits sequence set to a scorching hot score by Nathan Matthew David and one of the best in the game, Ludwig Göransson (Creed, Black Panther). The costume design makes it hard to place when and where the movies takes place, giving it a timeless feel. Small indie movies like Slice are a playground for ambitious directors, testing their inventiveness while combating budgetary restrictions.
The film prevails with clever minimalist makeup for the ghosts and great practical effects everywhere else. The cinematography is unique, presenting the film as a brightly colored neo-noir. We’re also treated to a fun video game feel, similar to Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World, mainly in the visual effects department. Again, using the small budget to their advantage, the special effects are over the top on purpose. One of the biggest upsides to Slice is its awareness, knowing damn well how ridiculous the movie is and Vesely totally leans into it.
“Slice exemplifies what’s great about independent cinema […] Unfortunately, this movie isn’t all pepperonis and rainbows.”
Small movies also have the plus that if everyone is on board and giving it 100%, it shows through easily. The cast was all-in with their very specific characters, whether it be Tim Decker as an inept police officer or Rae Grey as the intelligent reporter. Both are characters we’ve seen before, but with the self-aware dialogue and fantastic performances, we get something a little new. The dialogue perfectly balances the dark comedy and horror elements of the film. The cast as whole performs incredibly, all coming together on the same page to make this film special. In short, Slice exemplifies what’s great about independent cinema, crafting a truly unique film. Unfortunately, this movie isn’t all pepperonis and rainbows.
The first half of Slice is truly great: we meet zany characters and have a lot laughs. As the movie goes on though, and that newness wears off, you realize it doesn’t have as nearly much to offer in terms of story. And I pinpointed the reason for this down to one main element: Chance the Rapper. Don’t get me wrong, his acting debut was solid: a bit stiff at times but he was funny and charismatic. But the writing of his character just didn’t work. The first half he is only talked about and seen minimally, which made the mystery of the werewolf intriguing. Once he’s introduced and takes over the main protagonist role, essentially, we don’t learn anything interesting about him and he’s not all that necessary in the grand scheme of the plot. And sadly, the build-up to his transformation didn’t exactly pay-off either.
It’s hard having a small movie with a giant celebrity attached, so I understand trying to give him a significant role. Plus Chance and Vesely are best friends and collaborators, but it shouldn’t have come at the cost of the story. His entrance completely undercuts Astrid, who led the first half of the film and is vastly more compelling as a character. She is, literally and figuratively, tossed to the side in the third act which was pretty disappointing. I can’t put all the blame on Chance’s Dax though, plenty of other aspects were underdeveloped as well.
Another frustrating part was the mystery itself. And If the movie would have used its unique tone to tell the story creatively, it could have worked. Instead, Slice used it to be extra on-the-nose, hoping we wouldn’t notice how generic it was by covering it’s weaker moments with jokes. The charisma of the cast definitely carries us to the finish line, but it was a bummer that such a fun and outrageous movie just fizzles out after the mystery is solved prematurely.
“If you like your movies strange, Slice delivers the goods in 90 minutes or less.”
As this review certainly has, Slice takes a sharp turn in the third act of the film that almost made me forget all the good in the film. Keyword: almost. This movie is messy so it’s easy to knit pick, but at the end of the day there aren’t many movies like it and that’s something I still love about Slice. It’s definitely the debut of an immensely talented director still perfecting his craft, and I remain super excited for anything Austin Vesely has in the future. Slice drips enough style to soak through multiple napkins. It’s one-of-a-kind world mixed with a talented cast and surprisingly good production.
Slice blends elements of slashers, noir, dark comedy, and body horror into something pretty tasty. The over-the-top nature might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but will certainly be a genre fan favorite. Let’s just say it’s the Hawaiian Pizza of genre films, except there’s way more to this wacky pie besides pineapple. If you like your movies strange, Slice delivers the goods in 90 minutes or less.