2023’s The Toxic Avenger is a bold reimagining of a cult classic (Fantastic Fest 2023 Review)

The Toxic Avenger - Courtesy Legendary
The Toxic Avenger - Courtesy Legendary /

To kickoff my week at Fantastic Fest 2023, I was honored with the oppurtunity to attend the world premiere of Lionsgate remake of the cult classic 80s Troma film The Toxic Avenger. Now I don’t wanna get ahead of myself, I still have a few days left on my Fantastic Fest trip, not to mention the three or so months we have left in 2023, but I really think we have a potentially huge hit on our hands with Toxie’s return to the big screen.

Starting off with an eye popping opening that’s both tense and comedic and a stellar title card, it wasn’t long until I knew I was in for a treat.

Now, when I heard about the cult flick Toxic Avenger getting a big studio remake I was confused to say the least. The idea of taking this bonkers 1980s cheese-fest which practically became the mascot of Troma and its long and continuing reign of indie B flicks, and packaging it into a wide release studio film with A-list celebrities just didn’t compute with me. However, to my surprise director Macon Blair pulled the rabbit out of the hat and walked the thin tightrope line between Troma nuttiness and great studio flick through his powerful directing.

Given that the original film was a no-bars-held raunchy 80s flick, I was curious as to if Toxic Avengers studio counterpart would be able to keep up with the comedic writing and direction of the original. Thankfully when you have seasoned players involved like Peter Dinklage, Kevin Bacon and Elijah Wood, you don’t have to look far to find this film’s genuine comedic value. The film especially plays well with Troma’s gleefully mean social commentary for modern audiences.

The Toxic Avenger
The Toxic Avenger – Courtesy Legendary /

Speaking of the aforementioned actors, let’s talk about them! To start, Peter Dinklage fits right into this world as a new generation’s Toxic Avenger. His performance is the heart and soul of the film and he absolutely kills it. The films primary antagonists played by Kevin Bacon and Elijah Wood are absolute scene stealers. Kevin Bacon hams it up as a douchey irredeemable schmuck while Elijah dawns some intense make up and transforms into a twitchy and timid weirdo, and I’m loving it.

What shocked me the most about The Toxic Avenger (aside from the fact that a TROMA movie is getting a full studio makeover) is that it doesn’t play it too safe for audiences. Despite the fact that a big name studio such as Legendary has the keys to the cars, they don’t intend on easing up the gas too much, and the film doesn’t shine away in reminding you, so much so in the gore aspect.

While Troma had no problem reveling in the violence for extended moments in scenes, Legendary’s take maintains a good deal of the blood and guts one would expect from The Toxic Avenger’s rage, though there are moments where I wished shots would be held longer on all the bloody carnage.

I do feel that the overall script is an improvement over its predecessor, while the original had a cute love story at its core, Blair’s take shows Dinklage as a struggling single father. The relationship drives the film and comes to a beautiful resolution not possible without Dinklage’s acting chops. Overall, the script is a great love letter to Troma while still ushering in modern audiences into crazy cult cinema on a big screen scale.

Other great standout players in The Toxic Avenger are Taylor Paige and Jacob Tremblay

This is a film that’s really firing on all cylinders throughout the production: everything from the eye-popping sets, costumes and practical effects, to the hammed-up acting and stellar direction and writing. The film is a great treat for movie goers and fans of the original cult classic, jam packed with call outs and references to the original, while still being a great modern retelling for modern audiences.

Did you get a chance to catch The Toxic Avenger at its Fantastic Fest world premiere? What did you think! Let us know! If you enjoyed reading this review, check out some of my other articles and feel free to follow me on my social medias such as Twitter (JacobAtTheMovie), Instagram (JacobTheHarper), Facebook (JacobTheHarper) and Letterboxd (JacobTheHarper).

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