Saluting a megalithic juggernaut for taking risks is a bit of a mug’s game, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been in a winningly funky mood lately, alternating the large-scale Sturm and Drang of the Avengers series with lighter, more idiosyncratic fare. (Yes, I realize that something like Thor: Ragnarok is light years away from being an indie film, but work with me here.) Captain Marvel, the long-overdue solo launch for the comic company’s most powerful female character, unfortunately can’t quite keep the left-field streak going, settling for a pretty familiar origin story delivery mode. While the pre-Iron Man timeframe contributes some novelty—to say nothing of some stellar soundtrack needle-drops—it often feels like a throwback in less engaging ways, as well. Still, even when mired in generic comic movie trappings, the exceedingly game Brie Larson and her ace supporting cast keep things buzzing.
Even in our small world, a great actor can be hidden from mainstream view by geography. When the 2010 Aussie crime picture Animal Kingdom banged out from Down Under, it boosted a group of veteran performers—Jacki Weaver and Joel Edgerton among them—onto Hollywood short lists. The big revelation was a slightly built actor with a weak chin, one Ben Mendelsohn, who burned a hole in the screen as a frightening psycho. Mendelsohn was over 40 and well-traveled when that film came out; he’s grabbed visible roles in high-profile movies (The Dark Knight Rises) and TV (Bloodline) since. But Mississippi Grind is the performance that erases any doubt that Mendelsohn is one of the most exciting people on screen these days.