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Venom: Let There Be Carnage

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NEW YORK — Given the schizophrenic nature of the title character, it's not surprising that "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" (Columbia) is two films in one.

There's a raucous buddy comedy about an ordinary guy and his inner alien lizard struggling to coexist. And there’s a loud action thriller with multiple villains, all worthy of the Marvel Comics source material.

Trouble is, the two don't mix well, despite a stellar cast and fast pacing by director Andy Serkis. The result is occasionally amusing and entertaining, but stylized violence and crude language places this firmly in the adult camp.

In this sequel to 2018's "Venom," Tom Hardy reprises his role as Eddie Brock, the goofy host of an alien symbiote with the nasty name. They're an odd couple, to say the least, with Eddie struggling to curb his alter ego's appetite for human flesh while zoning out the constant chatter in his head.

"You live in my body, you have to play by my rules," Eddie tells Venom.

"I am a parasite," Venom replies. "I don't eat salad."

Eddie has been down and out since splitting with his comely fiancée, attorney Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Opportunity knocks when a notorious serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), invites Eddie, an investigative journalist, to visit him on death row.

It's a career-making scoop for Eddie, but creepy Cletus has other plans. He sends a coded message in Eddie's article to his childhood sweetheart, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), who has issues of her own. Locked away in an insane asylum, Frances goes by the name Shriek, thanks to her set of powerful pipes.

Cletus, reaching through the cellblock bars, bites Eddie's finger and draws blood. Infected with the parasite, he morphs into a sinister relative of Venom named Carnage.

"Venom: Let There Be Carnage" goes off the rails when Cletus/Carnage busts out of prison and goes on a rampage, laying waste to much of San Francisco as he searches for Frances and tries to destroy Eddie/Venom.

Witty banter lightens the mood of what descends into traditional Marvel-esque mayhem. The climax is regrettably held in a cathedral where seemingly "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" meets "King Kong."

The film contains stylized violence and gore, a few instances of profanity and one crude gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021