*** (out of four)
In the first few minutes of "Tyrannosaur," a man kicks a dog to death, and another man urinates on his sleeping wife. If you're someone who goes to the movies to have a good time, there's the exit.
Their loss. The feature directing debut from actor Paddy Considine ("Submarine," "In America"), who also wrote the script, shines as an uncompromising character study about people's propensity for faith in the face of adversity, and anger that quickly transitions into cruelty. Joseph (Peter Mullan) lives a lonely life with a short fuse, but he knows he's in the presence of goodness when he strikes up an unlikely friendship with shop owner Hannah (Olivia Colman). Of course, Joseph assumes she's just a kindly, well-off bore, not a miserable woman who fears her abusive husband James (Eddie Marsan).
Considine underlines certain points a few too many times—a bachelorette party helping Hannah reach out to James screams, "Ironic, ay?"—and overdoes it on the foreshadowing involving a dangerous dog and Joseph's young friend Sam (Samuel Bottomley). Mullan and Colman, heartbreaking in different ways, hold it all together. Hannah's hanging on by a thread; Joseph's gradually realizing how he defines atonement and stability. They're the anchors of the film's scary, tightly wound world, in which everyone's spring is dangerously close to being sprung.