Empire Pictures // 2002 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // June 17th, 2005
Sisters bound by blood. Then by revenge.
More style than substance, The 3 Marias is quickly crushed under the weight of its own potential.
Filomena (Marieta Severo) rejects Firmino (Carlos Vereza) to marry another man. Decades later, Firmino and his sons brutally murder her husband and sons. When she learns of the murders, she swears revenge and enlists the help of her three daughters. Each is sent to hire the services of a particularly nasty hitman, so that she has the assurance that Firmino and his sons suffer as much as possible. Her daughters head out, determined to do whatever it takes to bring these killers on board.
The first 30 minutes of The 3 Marias are gruesome and compelling. The film opens with a wide shot of the gorgeous Brazilian landscape, with Filomena and Firmino wordlessly playing out the rejection that puts the whole film into motion. Then, the film jumps directly to the murders between the two feuding families. Both the language and the violence are heightened, as though channeling Romeo and Juliet through Dawn of the Dead. The daughters are then assembled, in a slickly filmed sequence that sets the rest of the film up for three grisly chapters of bloody retribution. A vividly animated montage sets the three Marias on their respective journeys.
Then it fizzles.
It takes forever for the women to hire the hitmen and for the script to actually arrive at the bloody retribution. This process is stylishly filmed, but the excitement built up over the opening scenes gradually fades as we start to wonder when, if ever, we are actually going to reach the vicious acts of bloody revenge that we've been promised. After all, we're not in this for the philosophical and psychological implications of revenge, and we're certainly not watching The 3 Marias in the hopes of learning how to help an insane Brazilian murderer to escape from prison. North American audiences have been graced (if that's the right word) with two fantastic revenge pictures recently in Kill Bill and Sin City. We have a taste for blood, especially to revenge the horrific actions of the Santos Guerra clan at the beginning of this film.
When the time for revenge finally does arrive, it happens in a moralistic "dangers of revenge" mode, rather than the bloody satisfaction that is expected. We expect that the plan will fall apart, as plans always do, but that shouldn't force the genre of the film to change midstream. Although the final revenge sequences are told twice with some suspense as to what actually happened, our black-clad heroines all fail to succeed. The deaths of the Santos Guerra men are quick, even merciful as punishment for their sins. Stylish cinematography and solid performances are good, but useless if the audience doesn't get a payoff at the end.
The transfer limits the impact of the stunning cinematography. I don't know how Empire Pictures created this transfer, but I have a guess. It looks like they went into a theater with a camcorder, recorded the film, then used a home computer to record the analog 8MM to DVD. The picture is fuzzy and blocky, with an unusually rich collection of print and compression flaws. The colors are generally vivid, but dark scenes are even more grainy than the light scenes. The 3 Marias has such strong visuals that this transfer is even more offensive than it may have been. You can tell that this was once a beautiful film, but not on this disc.
The sound transfer is equally sucky. There is an audible buzz throughout, and any bass in the music breaks apart into a dreadful fuzzy haze. The sounds that aren't hazy are harsh and shrill. Perhaps worst of all, the subtitles are burned onto the print, in a delicate cream tone that disappears into the frame about a third of the time. On a small television, it makes understanding the dialogue a challenging proposition.
To add insult to injury, there are no real special features on the disc. There's a very brief bio of the director, as well as a photo gallery with less than ten pictures, about half of them blown up stills from the same DVD transfer. Thanks a lot, guys.
What's more disappointing, the film or the DVD? I think the film, because it begins with so much potential, and squanders it all. The disc is horrible in every sense, so it infuriates more than disappoints. Had the transfer been better, I could have recommended The 3 Marias for its visuals alone. As it stands, this release of the film simply isn't worth wasting time on.
Empire Pictures is sentenced to five years of hard time, followed by a seminar on DVD mastering. Everyone involved in the making of the film is hereby sent back to the drawing board. Come back when you have something more satisfying to offer the court in your defense.
Review content copyright © 2005 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Bottom 100 Discs: #27
Studio: Empire Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Portuguese)
* English (burnt in)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery