Tag Archives: gratuitous violence

TIFF18: Donnybrook

Earl, an ex-soldier, has a junkie wife and two kids and no legit way to make them a better life. The only thing he’s ever been good at is fighting, and as luck would have it, there’s a slim chance he can turn that into some cash. Donnybrook is offering up $100k to the winner of a massive, no rules cage fight. All you have to do is be the last one standing. $100k will buy a home for his kids and treatment for his wife, but he can’t even afford the $1k entrance fee. So he robs a gun store where he’s known by the owner – it’s not a perfect crime, but Earl (Jamie Bell) isn’t exactly the sharpest tool, nor does he have to be in this shit town.

On the road to Donnybrook, Earl’s story will intersect with Delia and Angus, a brother-sister drug-dealing team with a questionable relationship, and the cop who’s pursuing MV5BZTJjMDdkZDgtNDRjMy00ZGU5LThjOTMtZWE4Nzk3ZDRhZTFhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ1MTYzNzY@._V1_them. Lots of crazy things are going to happen. LOTS OF CRAZY THINGS. I can only hope to prepare you fractionally for the craziness that’s about to be unleashed. I was not prepared at all. Some films at a festival are hardly finished. Lots don’t have trailers yet, or even production stills. Lots will go on to be re-edited so their final, released-in-theatres version will look wholly different that the version I saw at TIFF. Donnybrook felt finished but little was known about it. The only synopsis available simply states that “two men prepare to compete in a legendary bare-knuckle fight.” I thought I was sitting down to a boxing movie, not a HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED movie, and I shouted that more than once. More than twice!

And it’s not just the gratuitous violence. There’s some pretty freaky sex stuff too. The drug-addicted wife is likely the only one headed for treatment, but she’s only the fourth or fifth most in need of it. There isn’t a healthy person for miles, and if there was, they’d probably be killed just for their car keys. Donnybrook is dark and violent and brutal.

Tim Sutton seems to want to give a voice to white rage in middle America. They’re poor, they’re addicted, they’re abused. And they’re racist, xenophobic pieces of shit, though Sutton seems to excuse that, and revel, even fetishize their anger. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem, just that Sutton contributes to the problem without saying anything intelligent about it. If he cared about these “marginalized” people, he wouldn’t make such caricatures out of them.

SXSW: Mayhem

mayhem-F71173I’m not sure if it was because Mayhem stars Steven Yeun (Glenn from the Walking Dead), or because of the bass-heavy soundtrack and quick cuts that almost have a sound to them, or because the theatre showed a George Romero anti-texting ad just before the movie started.  One way or another, Mayhem almost immediately reminded me of the Resident Evil franchise.  That’s probably NOT the franchise that director Joe Lynch was hoping to emulate, and may be taken as an insult, but I don’t mean it as one.  It’s a great match for the movie’s frenetic, claustrophobic, satirical look at an office building full of potential murderers and murder victims.

Let me explain.  In Mayhem’s universe, there is an airborne disease that removes people’s inhibitions, and if you’re infected then your eye turns red.  From that short synopsis I hope it’s clear that if you are at all eye-phobic (like Jay is) then you should stay far, far away from this one.  There is a lot of eye-rubbing going on in this office building and surprisingly, people are not freaked out with it, given that everyone in the building clearly knows all about this disease.  But they are not troubled enough to leave the building before it gets quarantined and some actually have plans to use the disease for their benefit, as a “legal loophole” of sorts.  FOR MURDER!

[lawyer rant] As a lawyer, I have to point out the precedent the schemers intend to rely on isn’t actually a loophole but rather an obviously wrong decision that would be overturned on appeal and/or disregarded in future cases.   And since the office building in which the movie takes place is a law firm, they really should know better because this lawyer knows that those relying on the “loophole” are all going to prison for a long, long time.  [/lawyer rant]

There’s plenty of blood and gore galore in Mayhem but the slick, tongue-in-cheek presentation makes the gore palatable and entertaining, to the point you will wonder whether you’ve finally been 100% desensitized to violence.  I mean, it’s almost certain I was desensitized long ago but I’m telling myself my tolerance for Mayhem’s gore was a result of not being invested in the characters.  Even Yeun’s character wasn’t compelling to me because he was kind of a sleazeball.  But then again he was a movie lawyer, so that’s to be expected.

I’m a little miffed that all movie lawyers are sleazeballs.  Mainly because you never see movie doctors being dishonest.  At worst they are addicts but they get to be honest addicts so they’re still one up on movie lawyers.  Maybe it’s finally time for me to write that screenplay about the dishonest doctor who was tricking his patients but then gets caught by the handsome honest lawyer and just when you think the doctor is going to use a loophole to get away with it, the lawyer totally shuts him down, he really makes the doctor look like an idiot for even trying, and in winning the case he also wins the love of his beautiful co-counsel and everyone lives happily ever after (other than the evil doctor who gets exactly what he deserves).  It’s going to have something for everyone, except for doctors who don’t deserve anything as I think we’ve already established.

By the way, Mayhem is a generic but entertaining thriller that looks far more polished than it has any right to on an indie budget.  If you can relate to an office revenge tale, or just hate lawyers, then keep an eye out for this one.




SXSW: Game Of Death

Laurence Morais Lagacé and Sebastien Landry are two young Canadian directors who apparently have wild and sick imaginations.

A bunch of teenagers, who’ve already had the sex and done the drugs, are just bored Game-of-Deathenough to try a dusty old board game, Game Of Death. They should have read the instructions first – once engaged, the game counts down the 24 people necessary TO MURDER in order to “win.” The game doesn’t stop until 24 are dead. When the clock runs out, if no one is killed, the game itself will execute a player. How stoned would you have to be for this to sound fun?

They do what any normal teenagers would: beer bongs. But failing to take this game seriously is a fatal mistake: when the clock runs out, one of the characters’ heads explodes. Like, explosively explodes. Yes, I know, I’m quite the colourful writer! Bow down if you must.

At any rate, this game is For Real. Now there are 23 left to be killed and some interesting choices to be made. Will the kids turn on each other, prey on their neighbours, or sit back and wait for their own skulls to go bust?

Interesting fact about teenagers: they are devoid of morals. Apparently. And video games have definitely made them callous!

Interesting fact about me: I cannot spend an hour and a half listening to a teenaged girl game-of-death-F69597cry. I assume this the same is also true of teenaged boys. I understand that some people cry under pressure, but for the sake of watchable movies, I think film makers need to dispense of this annoying soundtrack.

Interesting fact about this movie: exploding heads are NOT the most disturbing thing about it.

Should you watch it? Hey man, no judgments. There’s no real horror here; no anxiety, no foreboding, no creepiness, just straight up gore and blood lust, plenty of both, and some gratuitous bikini shots thrown in. Perfect guilt-watch?


John Wick: Chapter 2

wickbarI lagged way behind and only saw the first John Wick a few weeks ago when it popped up on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, and like action movies, it’s a good one (definitely good enough to warrant a sequel). And that sequel is now upon us.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is faithful to the first chapter’s formula, almost to a fault. That fault is repetitiveness, in a somewhat strange way. You see, one of the things I liked about John Wick (both the first movie and the character) is that he bleeds. He makes mistakes and the bad guys capitalize. He wins in the end through sheer force of will.

The same basic formula plays out in John Wick: Chapter 2 but since it’s a sequel, everything has to be tougher for our protagonist Jonathan (note to Ian McShane: emphasizing that this hit man’s full name is “Jonathan” is weird; please stop).  The problem is the way the difficulty is ratched up. Wick is not given tougher bad guys to face. He’s just given more of them, which makes the extended fight scenes a tedious series of guys running at Wick and Wick then shooting them twice in the body and one in the head.john-wick-chapter-2-keanu-reeves-419484-jpg-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx

Or, if two guys (or more) run at him at once (a SERIOUS violation of movie bad guy etiquette) he puts one in an MMA- style hold, shoots the other(s) in the body then head, then gives a head shot to the guy he wrestled down and has probably been using as a human shield while dealing with the other(s). Keanu Reeves obviously practiced this move particularly hard and good on him for still being credible as an action hero, but a little variety would have been nice in order to continue the first movie’s realistic feel.

(Don’t even get me started on the part where Wick is specifically given a gun with limited ammo and then immediately gets a magic movie gun from the first bad guy he kills that shoots about 30 times before he has to cock it again. Or the fact that in this film every second person in Central Park is an assassin.)

There’s more good and bad, and more good than bad in John Wick: Chapter 2. But when this movie’s ending set us up for the third instalment, I immediately thought of Jason Bourne, which I seriously considered turning off on a plane. That is a bad road for John Wick to be headed down.

John Wick: Chapter 2 gets a score of six smashed-up classic Mustangs out of ten. Essentially, the opening car-smashing sequence was a metaphor, in which Wick was this movie and my goodwill toward the first movie was the car. That it was such a nice car to begin with is the most disappointing part.


Psycho Raman

I can probably count on one hand the number of Indian films I’ve seen. And I KNOW I canraman 2 count on one finger the number of Indian films I’ve seen that were about serial killers. Which brings me to the appropriately titled Psycho Raman.

To expose yourself to foreign cinema can be a bit of a culture shock at first. I remember when I first started watching European movies I was thrown off at first by the storytelling, pacing, and acting that felt strikingly different from what I’d become accustomed to watching American movies. So with Psycho Raman, I braced myself for a style of filmmaking that would be completely new to me.

I was quite looking forward to seeing what this new (to me) voice could bring to the tired serial killer genre, and- bad news first-, was a little disappointed how much director Anurag Kastyap’s film reminded me of so many American crime films that I’ve seen. The magnetic Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Ramanna, a poor man in Mumbai with a taste for killing people with his giant metal pipe. Before he can escape from the scene of his first crime, he witnesses a drug-addicted cop (Vicky Kaushal) stealing from his victim and committing a murder of his own. Raman immediately sees a kindred spirit with this crooked cop and sets out on a two-year mission to help him embrace the killer inside him.

raman 3The symbiotic relationship between cop and killer is nothing new and I feel like I’ve seen every version there is of the “You complete me” speech but Kastyap shows us enough memorable images and packs enough suspense into Psycho Raman’s best scenes that his film is well worth watching. Mumbai is a compelling setting for this familiar story and, as the Fantasia Film Festival website notes, shows a side of India that most of us aren’t used to seeing.

Raman, as played by Siddiqui, clearly has a very screws loose but- like all of our favourite movie psychos- is actually quite insightful. He’s a fun character and Kastyap enjoys filming him walking in slow motion to the beat of a pop song so much that it’s easy to get the sense that he seems him as the hero of this gruesome story. It almost feels like the start of a Raman franchise.

Kastyap enjoys his serial killer so much that he often neglects the equally if not more raman 4important character of Raghavan, the cop with a dark side. The film is divided into ten chapters and way too many of them don’t feature Raghavan at all. Not that I’m complaining. Kaushal doesn’t bring anything new to the drug addict or the angry cop and his scenes are often tedious. Still, the battle over this man’s soul is the whole point and Kastyap needed to put in a little more time developing this character.

A better film would have been about 20 minutes shorter and used that time more effectively. Still, though Kastyap always cuts away before the violence becomes gory, he doesn’t pull his punches. Psycho Ramanh is a dark and uncompromising movie and you may find its villain/anti-hero tough to shake.

Terra Formars

MV5BN2JmNjVhNmEtMGZhYy00NjEyLTk2ODgtOGRjYzczNzkyZTk1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjA2OTcwNzE@._V1_There will always be a place in my heart reserved for ridiculous movies.  Ones that know they are dumb and just go for it anyway.   Terra Formars is one of those movies.  It is everything that you’d expect from a Japanese sci-fi battle between giant humanoid cockroaches and criminals with bug powers who are being paid to destroy the roaches so that humans can live on Mars.

Jay tells me that this is a very tame and straightforward addition to director Takashi Miike’s body of work.  I would have found that hard to believe but for the clip of his work that was played before our screening, in connection with Miike being awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Fantasia Film Festival, and the descriptions offered during the presentation by the festival’s organizers.  All five that spoke clearly  love Miike’s work and a more ringing endorsement could not have been given, though with a clear disclaimer that his most extreme work is not going to be enjoyed by many.

001Personal taste aside, Miike would be deserving of the lifetime achievement award based on productivity alone, as he has somehow screened 30 films at Fantasia during the festival’s 20 years of existence!

Though Terra Formars may be tame and straightforward for Miike, it is a deliciously over-the-top action romp that proudly pays tribute to its manga roots.  The roaches look very cartoony on screen but that seems intentional given how closely they match the source material.  Just as cartoony are the hybrid human-bug heroes, who to my delight received voice-over intros describing each of their powers.  The heroes look incredible in their bug forms, and the glee with which they rip apart the roaches (and vice versa) is contagious.

That glee carries over to the movie as a whole, and is the main reason that I was thoroughly charmed by Terra Formars from start to finish.  It’s such a fun and bizarre adventure, you won’t care that much of it makes no sense at all.  Highly recommended for anyone whose guilty pleasures include cheesy sci-fi monster movies.



It’s always nice when a comic book movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. Deadpool makes clear from the opening credits that there is no danger of any seriousness here. Throughout the movie, Ryan Reynolds keeps that lighthearted vibe going by dropping references to every other comic book movie he’s been in, as well as a few that he hasn’t, and keeping the patter going even during what would be serious scenes in any other superhero movie.

Deadpool-Guns-OutDeadpool delivers, plan and simple. It is big, loud and stupid, just like it should be. After all, the main character(a) is insane; (b) is immortal; and (c) knows he is a comic book character. There’s really not any need for pretense – we came to see craziness and that’s what Deadpool gives us, from start to finish.

There’s even a bit of love to be found, but only to inject some tension. Since Deadpool can’t be hurt, someone else has to be in danger so the climactic fight means something. But for the most part, Deadpool gives us the merc with a mouth in all his glory, drawing with crayons, forgetting his guns, doling out terrible life advice, and generally being the worst hero imaginable.

And that’s okay! We don’t need all our superheroes to imitate 1960s Batman. Deadpool didn’t teach me anything and I respect it for not trying to. Though I could have done deadpool_clip_hd.0without another superhero origin story. It’s not necessary, it’s lazy, AND I’m pretty sure they already did Deadpool’s origin in Wolverine: Origins (though I’m also pretty sure they screwed it up). So Deadpool makes a misstep there but it’s forgivable since it keeps us laughing while it spins its wheels.  And really, the comedy is the whole point anyway so it’s not a major complaint, it’s just my critical two cents.

Overall, I enjoyed Deadpool a lot (and a lot more than I expected to).   I give it a score of seven self-mutilating escapes out of ten.