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Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly, Elvis Polanski ... see more see more... , Eliot Berger , Joseph Rezwin , Nathan Rippy , Tanya Lopert , Julie Adams

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 the... read more read 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. -- (C) Sony Pictures Classics

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66% liked it

21,131 ratings


71% liked it

174 critics

DVD Release Date: March 20, 2012

Stats: 2,050 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (2,050)

  • September 15, 2014
    Carnage isn't half as witty or clever as it thinks it is. It's melodramatic, white 50 something (starring 40 somethings) middle-class rubbish. It's mildly amusing but the 'it's funny cos it's true' aspect doesn't ring true here at all because it's not that funny and not that true... read more. The idea is basic, the story is basic, it's based on a theatrical play with only 4 actors, I get that side of the 'basics', but I'm afraid I just found the intelligence and comedy just that little too 'basic' as well. I'm glad the Hamster survived though. I expect more from Polanski but the performances were good considering. If there is anything worse than the worst of Woody Allen, it's people attempting to be like Woody Allen.
  • October 9, 2013
    Too unsubstantial to be a great movie. Pretty much two couples in one room arguing about a physical fight their sons got into. I believe it is adapted from a play. As such it feels unnatural and strained that they all stay in the room, annoyed as they are at each other.
    Performa... read morences are good. I'm not a parent, so the topic was not overly exciting to me. Maybe others would get more out of it.
  • May 15, 2013
    I guess I am not a Roman Polanski fan...I'm still looking for the dark humor, or any humor, for that matter...
  • November 2, 2012
    This is based on a play, and that's essentially how it comes off, only filmed.

    The plot here focuses on the aftermath of a fight between two kids on a playground. The parents of the 'victim' invite the parents of the 'bully' over to their home for a discussion of how to handle ... read morethe situation/raise children in general. Over the course of no more than a few hours, their conversation goes from polite to all out savage, with each person turning on the other, showing their true colors, and illustrating how a little disagreement can cause a lot of carnage.

    Aside from outdoor shots at the park that serve as bookends, the rest of the film takes place in the rooms (and extremely briefly) the hallway of the apartment of Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster)- the parents of the 'victim'. Given this set up, and how there's not really any cinematic flourishes going on, the film's success is absolutely dependent upon the writing and acting. This film is really almost nothing but talking, but man is it some juicy stuff.

    Besides the previously mentioned Reilly and Foster, the other parents, Nancy and Alan Cowan, are played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. Given that this is directed by Polanski, and features three Oscar winners (one of them a double), and an Oscar nominee, this has to be good. Has to. And thankfully, it mostly is.

    Reilly might be the weakest link here, but I think he's robably the funniest and most easy to relate to. Everyone gets their moments, but even though Reilly might be the most relatable, none of them are totally sympathetic, and the film makes it difficult to discern who should be rooted for, if anyone. That's what I liked about it. Each one has a good side, and they're all well-rounded, but it's their savagery and flaws that stick out most (probably on purpose), and seeing four not totally sympathetic people act horrible has a perversely dark joy to it., with a big chunk of the laughs being of the dark variety to begin with.

    Yeah, this is a polarizing movie, and won't be for everyone, but it is a great display of acting, and seeing these specific performers in the roles is what helps make it great. I do think the conclusion is anti-climactic, and could have been better handled, and maybe the film shouldn't have been book ended by moments outside the apartment, but still, this film is kinda gutsy. It's certainly not boring, but I was really left wanting more after it was done, and not exactly in a good way, either. It's certainly fun while it lasts, even if it is quite brief.
  • September 5, 2012
    With very good actings by Foster and Winslet, Polanski's picture it's a exhausting and darkly funny film.
  • August 7, 2012
    The reputation of Roman Polanski's classic work leads you to expect nothing but the very best from him. Even with the occasional stumble, such as Pirates or The Ninth Gate, you still enter into any new film he makes with high expectations, and even in his recent work he has deliv... read moreered. But whereas The Pianist and The Ghost Writer were examples of masterful cinematic craft, Carnage is a disappointingly stagey effort, which fails to flesh out the ideas of its source material or satisfy us as a black comedy.

    There seems to be a conscious attempt by Polanski to position Carnage as a descendant of his acclaimed Apartment Trilogy, comprising Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant. Fans of his work who were not familiar with the play probably saw the film on the basis of his track record in generating unbearable tension within seemingly harmless domestic settings. And like his Apartment Trilogy, Polanski makes an on-screen appearance, peering around the door of the neighbouring apartment as the row between the characters begins to escalate.

    But while there is a continuity of setting, the films lacks Polanski's motif of using architecture to express malevolence. He is a master at manipulating light, colour and composition to make something as plain and simple as a wall appear to be harbouring great threat towards the characters. When married to a story involving unreliable narration or mental instability, this aspect places increased doubt in the viewer's mind, deeply unnerving us as tension builds. In this case, we are given a pretty standard-looking, upmarket Brooklyn apartment, in which the characters sit and say their lines without much going on around them.

    Carnage does attempt to explore a number of interesting ideas, of which some have contemporary significance and others have become staples of comedy or drama depicting middle-class life. It is, to coin a phrase, a "behind the picket fence" movie, insofar as it depicts characters and their living space as having a veneer of civility masking widespread corruption and immorality. This is a very familiar theme, which puts the film loosely in the company of Blue Velvet, The Stepford Wives and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (more on that later).

    Where Carnage differs, certainly from the first two comparisons, is its relative lack of stylisation. Both David Lynch and Bryan Forbes went to some length to orchestrate and elevate the unease caused by their over-perfect, chocolate box suburbia, using music and the visuals to pull you into a dark and horrifying world. Polanski, for once, wishes to play the material with understatement, relying on the characters alone to create malevolence. And for the most part this decision works as much in its favour as anything else; we get to experience the characters' frustrations without feeling like our response is being shaped a certain way.

    Within this basic, well-worn theme, the film raises various other questions or points for discussion. It explores the cause and effect behind acts of great evil, raising questions about whether responsibility lies with individuals or whether acts like war and genocide are the product of a society which influences and determines our behaviour. The film questions what constitutes making a difference, with Jodie Foster's character being mocked for wanting to write a book about Darfur; she believes she is making a difference, while her husband and guests say she just wants to feel good about herself.

    The title of the original play, God of Carnage, is uttered by Christoph Waltz as an explanation for such catastrophic events. Both he and John C. Reilly's character share some kind of nihilistic outlook, believing that there is nothing that can be done to prevent such carnage wrecking the Earth. The group are divided into the Nearderthals (who, to quote The Dark Knight, "just want to watch the world burn") and the bleeding heart liberals who believe in making a difference. Neither group is shown to have any credibility: Waltz cannot cope when his phone is destroyed, and Foster and Kate Winslet both resort to heavy drinking

    Both the play and the film have a very mean-spirited, ironic view of mankind. They posit the idea that when we try to behave and solve our problems like adults, we are only kidding ourselves and things very quickly break down into childish bickering. Rather, the best way is to live red in tooth and claw, to allow our animal urges to take control - and, wouldn't you know it, living in such short-termist, selfish and impulsive ways might actually work. While the four adults gradually collapse until they are nothing but shells, their children sort out their differences with no intervention whatsoever - a cruel joke whose irony is not lost on us.

    For all the ideas that it explores, however, Carnage ends up being hamstrung by three major problems. The first is that is doesn't really feel like a film: it feels like a recording of the play, or perhaps an extended TV episode. The production values may be good, but in an age where HBO are producing dramas as slick as anything Hollywood can offer, that's no longer enough. Despite Jasmina Reza having a hand in the screenplay, it doesn't feel like it has been properly adapted; the camerawork is uninventive and the editing is all long, slow tracking shots, which mimic our heads turning as we watch people move about on stage.

    The second problem with the film, and perhaps the play, is that all the characters are deeply, deeply annoying. They score over the characters in The Squid and the Whale, or any Noah Baumbach film, because at least in this case there is something going on. But if we don't pick up on or understand all of the philosophical undercurrents, it becomes nothing more than four over-privileged New Yorkers moaning for 80 minutes. Although it always feels like there is some kind of end to this means, their complaints are so banal or removed from reality that we often lack the patience or desire to spend more time with them.

    The third and final problem with Carnage is its pomposity. It comes across as a film which is attempting to be edgy, outré, radical or controversial, and in advertising these characteristics so broadly and willingly it ends up being none of these things. Even if the underlying idea makes sense (whether or not you accept it), none of the other discussions feel adequately resolved. Desiring ambiguity is one thing; throwing in random chunks of philosophy in a bid to sound clever is something else.

    These flaws become all the more clear when you compare the film to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Like Carnage, it is based around two couples coming together in a domestic setting and playing mind games, leading to examinations of class differences, sexism, madness, politics and professional rivalry. Neither Edward Albee's play nor Mike Nichols' film were trying to be seen as edgy or ground-breaking - they just were. Carnage is trying too hard to be seen as edgy without doing the hard work needed to make us feel on edge.

    The saving grace of Carnage is the performers, who really give their all. The film is final proof, if ever it were needed, that John C. Reilly is at his best in dramatic roles, as demonstrated by his brilliant performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin. Christoph Waltz continues his knack of being the best thing in sub-par productions, following on from recent turns in The Green Hornet and The Three Musketeers. And Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet both manage to keep us interested, with the latter deserving extra points for vomiting so convincingly.

    Carnage is a disappointingly stagey and pompous production from a man whose body of work is normally anything but these qualities. It's not a total failure, on account of the four strong performances and its conscious effort to raise ideas or issues, rather than settling for middle-class moaning in and of itself. But it has neither the development nor the bite nor the shock value of Virginia Woolf?, playing on your patience when it should be messing with your head.
  • July 26, 2012
    Roman Polanski's Carnage is a film about the cruel and deviously disguised 'politeness' that exists in white middle class society. Two pairs of parents are brought together after one of their sons hits the other with a stick. We join them just as they are writing up the incident ... read morein a report both parties can agree on. Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz then spend the rest of the film trying to leave the apartment, but continue to be sucked in by Foster's passive aggressive nature. Foster continuously uses words such as 'disfigured' and 'armed with' to inflate the situation, much to Waltz's anger. The film lampoons the insane importance placed on politeness. The first time Waltz and Winslet try and leave, Reilly remembers they didn't offer them a drink and so quickly remedies the situation. As the film continues we see their gradual (or sudden as the film is less than 80 minutes) breakdown. All the pent up frustration boils to the surface, and we realise that for some reason this whole event is more important to the parents than it is to the boys. Polanski manages to capture little facial ticks that really take advantage of this as a film and not just a play. It's highly amusing and the four leads give magnificent performances. The parents quickly change alliance when they find themselves against the ropes. The second half wasn't as great as the first, as the first half relies on the analysis of dialogue and the subtext, whereas the second half has the characters drunk and just shouting out what they think and how they feel. A very wonderful film, that I dare say could have risked being a bit longer.
  • July 10, 2012
    The only information I knew about this film is the all star cast. After finally watching it; I concluded that it was better than expected and I enjoyed it. The main flaw is the relatively slow pace the film creates. However, overcoming this will make the film easier to enjoy. One... read more of the highlights is the superb acting, along with the differing personalities.

    For example, Jodie Foster plays the emotionally unstable mother who wants everything to be reasonable. Foster's character is the only one who makes you think 'I can understand why she is saying this'.

    Next is John C.Reilly, the short tempered slacker, who trys to handle the unease that develops between both families, but does make it worse.

    Chistoph Waltz is the upper class father, who cares more for his business than his family.

    Finally, Kate Winslet is the mother who sees herself as the perfect mother, but won't confess of being wrong.

    The tension that is created between both familes is interesting; it starts with a reasonable conversation, but ends with everyone acting like children.

    The humour in this film is definitely dark, but only adults/parents will easily catch on. With a great cast and a unique sense of humour; 'Carnage' is a slow paced comedy that eventually explodes with insults and some good laughs.
  • July 6, 2012
    Comedies are not my thing but this provided funny laughs under the circumstances.
  • fb619846742
    May 24, 2012
    A dialogue-driven bash in the face of parenthood and the facade of interacting with other parents, especially when it is due to a dispute that leaves one couple's son physically injured after the other couple's boy attacks him, which leads to a verbal session in a nice New York a... read morepartment. While obviously more fit for the stage than the medium of film, director Roman Polanski gets the most out of his actors to make this thing engaging and realistic despite being only 80 minutes and on the way out of the door when it starts. While Jodie Foster overacts a tad, the rest of the cast is pretty spot on, notably John C. Reilly in a hilariously relaxed performance that unexpectedly changes gears in the latter half of the film that makes it all the more funny and involving. It is no "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", but it is an impressive small-scale effort on how protecting one's image through the use of performing and acting instead of being yourself from the start can lead to disastrous results that ultimately lead to others questioning one's security and trustfulness.

Critic Reviews

Dave Calhoun
January 31, 2012
Dave Calhoun, Time Out

Brief, brutal and barmy. Full Review

Ian Buckwalter
January 13, 2012
Ian Buckwalter, The Atlantic

Where previously we felt as trapped in Polanski's apartments as his characters, in Carnage we only ever peek in through the window. Full Review

Tom Long
January 13, 2012
Tom Long, Detroit News

The actors seem to have fun, particularly Foster, working against type as the thoroughly unlikable Penelope. But "Carnage" isn't nearly as bloody as it thinks it is. Full Review

Ann Hornaday
January 13, 2012
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

What are supposed to be transgressive observations about the holy state of parenthood and matrimony instead come across as self-satisfied and shallow as the pieties Reza intends to puncture. Full Review

Joe Williams
January 13, 2012
Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

If we grant that "Carnage" is a low-impact exercise in stripping away the social veneer, it's nonetheless brisk and enjoyable. Full Review

Amy Biancolli
January 12, 2012
Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle

In real life, hyper-controlling metropolitan parents would not waste this much time on people they loathe. Full Review

John Anderson
January 12, 2012
John Anderson, Newsday

The astonishing Waltz steals the picture, possibly because he's the one with a rational perspective (despite his telephonic obsessiveness): He sees the whole exercise as pointless. Ultimately, so do we. Full Review

J. R. Jones
January 12, 2012
J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader

Foster is particularly impressive in a stridently unattractive role, as the pinched, angry liberal who's orchestrated the meeting but doesn't get quite the apology she wants. Full Review

Chris Vognar
January 12, 2012
Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

Skillfully acted by Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet, [it's a] compact verbal slugfest. Full Review

Moira MacDonald
January 12, 2012
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

An odd little chamber piece, "Carnage" plays out like a very tense meeting from which you can't wait to depart. Full Review

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    • Nancy Cowan: Look at him all hunched over like he was left on the side of the road.
    • Alan Cowan: Keep on stroking your own ego. It's beautiful.
    • Michael Longstreet: Penelope, what happened to your sense of humor?
    • Penelope Longstreet: I don't have a sense of humor, and I don't want one!
    • Nancy Cowan: How can you let her call our son a criminal? We come over here to work things out with them and they, they insult us, they browbeat us, they lecture us about being good citizens of the planet! I am glad our son kicked the shit out of your son and I wipe my ass with your human rights!
    • Nancy Cowan: I've got a John Wayne idea of manhood, too. What is it he had? A Colt .45. Something that empties a room. Any man that doesn't have those loner vibes just doesn't come off as having any substance.
    • Alan Cowan: Penelope, I believe in the god of carnage. The god whose rule has been unchallenged since time immemorial.

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Carnage Trivia

  • In Spiderman 3, Spiderman battles Venom. Who is the other villain from the comic books that is like Venom?  Answer »
  • Which of these Spider-Man villians has never been in one of the movies?  Answer »
  • Who was not a villian in SpiderMan's movies.  Answer »
  • What is the name of the Symbiote that appears in Spiderman 3? You Chose: d. Venom (Correct - 10 pts) Correct Answer: a. Carnage (0%) b. Toxin (5%) c. Scream (5%) d. Venom (11%) e. Hybrid (1%) Though, throughout the movie, the name Venom is never mentioned.  Answer »

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