Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe to Empire!
Save up to 63%
Halo 5 Guardians
The Master Chief returns
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Jordan Gelber
Selma Blair
Christopher Walken
Mia Farrow.
Todd Solondz.
Todd Solondz.
Running Time
84 minutes

4 Star Empire Rating
2 Star Empire Rating
2 Star Empire Rating
Intern, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Nightmare, The
3 Star Empire Rating

5 Star Empire Rating
Man With A Movie Camera
5 Star Empire Rating
Salt Of The Earth, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Song Of The Sea
5 Star Empire Rating
Look Of Silence, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Dark Horse
The biggest loser

submit to reddit

Abe (Gelber), a middle-aged, overweight neurotic, works for his overbearing father (Walken), is indulged by his mother (Farrow) and has never left home. Meeting the deeply depressed Miranda (Blair) at a wedding, he asks her out and instantly proposes marriage. Surprised when she accepts, Abe suffers crippling self-doubts which manifest themselves as realistic hallucinations.

Dark Horse
If The Forty-Year-Old Virgin were rebooted as a Todd Solondz movie with no guarantee of a happy ending, it’d be Dark Horse — a wry black comedy which manages uncomfortable empathy with its protagonist. If a typical Seth Rogen, Zach Galifianakis or Jonah Hill character were a real person, they’d be Jordan Gelber’s Abe, a whiny man-baby who seethes with resentment at the brother who betrayed him by graduating and becoming a doctor, spends office time bidding for Thundercats collectibles, but throws a tantrum if asked to do his job and sleeps in a boyhood bedroom full of Simpsons and Doctor Who tat.

Alternately tragic and infuriating, Abe is just self-aware enough to want out of a rut which could as easily turn him into Norman Bates as a rom-com schlub. He happens upon Miranda (Selma Blair, sort-of reprising her role from Solondz’s Storytelling), who is so medicated and damaged that she threatens to accept his marriage proposal. Backpedalling furiously, Abe now seems reluctant to let go of the routine he hates... and gradually, with no clear demarcation point, the film is overtaken by his subjective alternative realities, in which the drudge who pities him (Donna Murphy — one of the best actresses in the world, in a rare film role) becomes a cougar with a Bond villainess lair, Miranda’s ex-boyfriend is felled by a single punch and crippled for life, and everyone queues up to apologise to him. However, even in his dreams, Abe can’t convince himself he’s not jammed into a dead end.

With a gallery of deadpan supporting performances, including an uncharacteristically subdued Christopher Walken, a terrifyingly fluffy Mia Farrow and a heroically generous turn from the undervalued Blair, this is still a near-solipsist vehicle for Gelber, who gets a breakout showcase role. Because Abe is so credibly wounded by imaginary sleights and finds so little joy in irresponsibility, he is ultimately a heartbreaking character; a pointed rebuke to the celebration of the worst aspects of male immaturity in recent pop culture.

Less confrontational than most Solondz movies, in that it refrains from violence or kink, but still unsettling and affecting.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Denis Villeneuve Talks Sicario
On his cartel thriller and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel

Tomorrowland: The Viewing Guide
Brad Bird talks through his sci-fi adventure, scene by scene

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

My Movie Life: Justin Kurzel
The Macbeth director on how Rocky changed his life and the worst ever date movie

Life On Mars: Trips To The Red Planet
A dozen of cinema's Martian misadventures

All Hail Macbeth! The Scottish Play On Film
By the pricking of our thumbs, ten adaptations this way come(s)

10 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys You’ll Want To Own
Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)