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‘Coup!’ Review: Jaunty Class-War Comedy Pits Peter Sarsgaard Against Billy Magnussen

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Guy Lodge Film Critic That perky exclamation point sets the tone for “Coup!,” a story of murder, class struggle, One Percent entitlement and a global pandemic that nonetheless unfolds with all the eager, scrappy energy of an off-Broadway musical, minus most of the songs.

The pandemic in question is not the one you’re thinking of — Austin Stark and Joseph Schuman’s puckish comic thriller unfolds against the dire backdrop of the 1918 Spanish Flu — but it also sort of is, as its study of wealthy exceptionalism in a time of national crisis is clearly intended to chime with more recent memories of regimented distancing and mixed safety messages from on high.

Starring Peter Sarsgaard as a wily cook entering the quarantined estate of Billy Magnussen’s upper-class journalist — and taking advantage of their isolation to start a servant uprising — this is quick, nippy entertainment that raises plenty of sociopolitical talking points without digging too deep into any of them.

The closing film of this year’s Venice Days sidebar, “Coup!” even cultivates a faint air of adult pantomime with its confined setting and ripe performances — particularly from the wild-haired, hoop-earringed Sarsgaard, having a grand old time in a flamboyant role that is quite the opposite of his more prominent, prize-winning Venice turn in Michel Franco’s solemn “Memory.” Magnussen, meanwhile, is still possessed of those frostily handsome features that casting directors are loath to consider for heroic leads — and duly plays both “Coup!’s” villain and its patsy, as hoity-toity national newspaper columnist Jay Horton, whose performatively progressive politics are somewhat at odds with his vast inherited fortune.

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