I unapologetically endorsed Karl Muller’s Mr. Jones, to the point where a reference to my review was removed from Wikipedia under suspicion of having been planted by the director. Hey, the heart wants what the heart wants, and I wanted people to like Mr. Jones.
For whatever reason, I since missed that Karl Muller made a Netflix movie back in 2016. Seeing that he has not made another film for the service since should probably have been enough to curb my excitement, but like I said: The heart wants what the heart wants.
Rebirth sees office drone Kyle invited by his long-lost friend Zach, to what seemingly is a self-actualization retreat. All he is told is that Rebirth spans a life-changing weekend, with all contact with the outside world cut off.
If you’ve seen The Game, you have a pretty good idea what Rebirth is. Throughout the weekend, Kyle gets caught in a number of mind games, some outright violent, all in the guise of self-improvement. In that sense, the movie isn’t particularly original, yet a few facets go a long way to make up for that.
For one, Muller knows how to set up a shot – even the
found footage Mr. Jones looked the part – and he utilizes a bleak color palette well. Kyle’s descent into paranoia might not be backed by an out of the park script, but it sure is a pretty journey.
The cast does a commendable job. I have previously postulated that Muller must be a fan of David Lynch, something casting Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks) in Rebirth seems to confirm. Her role is small, but it’s always good to see her on-screen.
The great Adam Goldberg – a truly underutilized actor – portrays Zach, the real question mark of the movie. What his involvement with Rebirth is, serves as the underlying nerve of the film.
Of course, what Rebirth is, is pretty self-evident early on, and the parallels to Scientology aren’t particularly subtle. That the program for all intents is a cult is presented flat on the nose when Zach serves up Kool-Aid as a refreshing beverage. (And props to Goldberg on his timing in that scene, which easily is my favorite moment in the movie.)
An original concept it is not, but Rebirth pulls it together reasonably well in the end, almost literally so. Some of the best scenes are the Rebirth recruitment videos that play over the credits.
Brush some misgivings aside, and I do think Rebirth is worth a hundred minutes of your time. It’s not like you’re not already paying for Netflix. The technical craftsmanship and performances were enough to hold my interest in lieu of a sparkling script.
And compared to Mr. Jones? I will to my grave maintain that film is a masterpiece. Rebirth might not reach those dizzying heights, but I will still firmly stay in Karl Muller’s corner, awaiting a new movie I this time will not miss by three years.