New Video // 2010 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 26th, 2012
Douchebag on the loose!
From director Jerzy Skolimowski -- a complicated thriller. And that's putting it mildly. Essential Killing is not the sort of film that will be embraced by most people and, if I can be absolutely honest here, the "thinking-man's action thriller" line that's used in the synopsis will do little to convince viewers otherwise. As we all know, "thinking-man" is the dog whistle for "if you don't like this action thriller you're obviously a plebe."
Sorry. It's not fair to hold the lameness of the copywriter against the film, because though I found very little to care about here, I can recognize what Jerzy Skolimowski was trying to do. And...to a point...can appreciate his directorial sack.
Here's how it all plays out: a Taliban fighter (Vincent Gallo) blows up three Marines, is promptly taken into custody, water-boarded, tossed onto a transport to a secret European prison, escapes, and then it's pretty much a silent survival film.
What I liked: This is a beautifully shot production, from the desert warzone and claustrophobic Army detainee center to the snowy geography of the European wasteland. While no doubt a small budgeted piece of work, Essential Killing looks like legit money was spent on its execution and that's a testament to the skill and eye of its director. Also, Vincent Gallo must be commended. His character is a turd, but the man acts his spleen out, all with no dialogue. It's a man vs. the elements performance, all physical and obviously draining.
What I didn't like: Come on, it's a Taliban scumbag for crying out loud! Whatever political persuasion you may sympathize with, I can't see anyone getting behind this dude as a protagonist. And to be fair, Skolimowski isn't asking us to. But it's not easy watching this guy a) blow up Marines, b) kill dogs, c) forcefully nurse off a woman on a bicycle (really) and commit some heinous murders of innocent bystanders. Also, the U.S. Military gets punched in the nads throughout, which does very little for me. Very little.
I know we're not supposed to like this guy. I get that. But watching a survival thriller where the main character is engaging in some shockingly violent acts and not being able to morally connect with him -- it's a tough sell. In the end, I'm left with some gorgeous scenery, the most bizarre suckling I have ever seen, and not much else.
Then again, I might not be a thinking man.
The DVD: standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, an interview with Jerzy Skolimowski.
Something new is always appreciated, but screw this guy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site