Pathfinder // 1998 // 75 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 21st, 2004
Oh say, can you see?
"Psychological thriller" seems to be a euphemism for "boring-as-hell movie." Blindness is proclaimed to be the former. We'll see.
There exists in the world an Asian family. On the outside, they look to be living the ideal life. Big, beautiful house. Lavish interior decoration. The husband, Daniel Hong (Han Chin) is a successful surgeon. His wife Natalie (Vivian Wu, The Joy Luck Club) is beautiful. And his mother is blind. What more could a person want?
But festering underneath this upper-class façade is bitter infighting between the family members, and some dark secrets. Natalie and her mother-in-law hate each other. The two trade some verbal vitriol one night, and Daniel is more than happy to escape the scene when an emergency call from the hospital comes in.
But while he's gone -- cue one of the aforementioned dark secrets. Natalie is shocked to discover an intruder: Patrick (Joe Lando), a old family friend who was jailed for killing his parents. Patrick has just escaped from a maximum-security prison via unknown means, and has come to search for the truth behind the murder for which he was unjustly convicted.
He is convinced that the real murderer is his godfather, Daniel's dad. Besides the murder rap, Patrick also brings with him about five metric tons of baggage -- his love for Natalie, his suspicion of her mother-in-law, and his strained friendship with Daniel.
Eventually Daniel arrives home, and Patrick and everyone in the Hong household sit down for a round of exposition. But before that, an even greater challenge stands before Patrick: how to bonk Natalie without the mother-in-law finding out.
The characters in this movie tell a story.
No, I don't mean that metaphorically. They literally sit around and tell stories. Patrick breaks in to the house and tells a story. The mother-in-law confronts her daughter-in-law and tells a story. Dennis sits everyone down and tells a story.
To say Blindness is exposition-heavy is like saying Iowa has a few ears of corn. The entire narrative happens in one place -- the house -- which provides the setting for characters to rotate in and out and -- you guessed it -- tell stories.
The film is a shade south of eighty minutes, yet it crawled forward like a caterpillar with sunstroke. As such, I have to confess that it becomes another "psychological thriller" in that it's "pretty sleep-inducing."
I think back to the age-old English teacher adage for creative writing: "Show, don't tell." Well, director Anna Chi has her characters "tell" the movie, and while their stories are relatively interesting, the garrulousness becomes tedious.
Chi excels at creating a sinister atmosphere, but the atmosphere, and some nifty acting from Lando and Wi, is pretty much all that Blindness has going for it.
The visuals are a mixed bag. We get a widescreen presentation, which is appreciated; but the film quality ranges from okey-dokey to piss-poor. There is noticeable grain throughout the film, and some scenes are plagued with a very scratchy texture. A stereo track is provided; good enough, given that a digital mix would have been completely wasted on this chatfest.
Pathfinder equips the DVD with a mixed bag of bonus materials, an engaging commentary track by Chi headlining the crop. The remainder, though -- some biographies, storyboards, and stills -- is utterly disposable.
Lots of decent stuff is herein talked to death. Pity.
Guilty of making 75 minutes seem like an epoch.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary
* Still Gallery