Not Rated, 1 Hr., 45 Mins.
Heli opens with the image of a bloody young man in the back of a pickup truck, duct tape across his mouth and a boot on his face. It gets increasingly grim from there. Director Amat Escalante uses artful long takes, nonprofessional actors, and moments of abject miserableness — in one terrible-to-watch scene, a character has his genitals lit on fire — to sketch the story of a decent Mexican family churned up by their country’s corrupt police force. The film’s nihilism serves as a metaphor for the merciless death pit of Mexico’s drug war, but not much else. B- —Joe McGovern
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 38 Mins.
Despair is not quiet for a broken father (Aaron Paul) and his troublemaker sons in Kat Candler’s brisk, transfixing drama, which takes place in blue-collar southeast Texas. The family’s grief over the death of their wife/mother is set to heavy metal, the music of choice for 13-year-old ruffian-in-training Jacob (Josh Wiggins, a standout), who resorts to violence to win back his younger brother when he’s sent to live with his aunt (Juliette Lewis). (Also available on VOD) B+ —Lindsey Bahr
R, 1 Hr., 57 Mins.
A raft of fine actors — including Amy Adams, Richard Jenkins, and Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay — are wasted in a sour, callow family drama that mistakes constant yelling for emotional tension and fortune-cookie aphorisms for wisdom. Jenkins, as the dying patriarch, and Adams, as the former love of prodigal son Garrett Hedlund, try their best, but they can’t fix a movie in search of an arc and a heart. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) C- —Leah Greenblatt
R, 1 Hr., 42 Mins.
Set in the harsh Australian outback ”10 years after the collapse,” David Michôd’s follow-up to the terrific 2010 import Animal Kingdom is a major disappointment. Bleak, brutal, and ultimately pointless, the film stars Guy Pearce as a man whose car is stolen and who won’t rest until he not only gets it back but also punishes, with extreme prejudice, the dirtbags who took it. In its existential quest for payback, The Rover is a bit like a Nick Cave murder ballad captured on celluloid — only painfully slow and not very interesting. Robert Pattinson, affecting a mumbly Sling Blade drawl, plays one thief’s simpleminded brother, who helps lead Pearce to his prey. Skip it. C- —Chris Nashawaty
Not Rated, 2 Hrs., 18 Mins.
She ran in the same circles as Sartre and Camus and was mentored by de Beauvoir, but French feminist writer Violette Leduc achieved a mere fraction of her peers’ fame and respect. In Martin Provost’s graceful biopic, Emmanuelle Devos plays Leduc as a powder keg of a woman who used her loneliness and insecurity as the explosive fuel for her work. She gives a tremendous performance, somehow managing to turn an emotion as ugly as self-loathing into something beautiful to behold. A- —Missy Schwartz