First Run Features // 2004 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 1st, 2005
Here's an indie flick you may not have heard of, but I'd be willing to bet you'll be surprised by its quality. Why would you be surprised? Because of this accurate four-word plot synopsis: Man pursues severed penis. But plot synopses can be deceiving.
Michael Rodrick and B-movie queen Debbie Rochon (Tromeo and Juliet) star in this pitch-black comedy-thriller by director Tim McCann about a man on the hunt for the ex-fiancée who neutered him. It's not so much a revenge saga as a "give-me-back-my-frickin'-penis" saga.
Conrad (Rodrick) appears to be living a sweet life. He's engaged to a buxom hottie named Jennifer (Rochon), lives in a tidy little apartment, and enjoys a moderately successful career. But his world nose-dives when a videotape mysteriously appears on his doorstep. Overcome with curiosity, he pops it into his VCR, and what unfolds is a vision of his beloved Jennifer wailing her butt off in a porno. Shocked, Conrad confronts Jennifer with the tape, and she, equally stunned, pleads for forgiveness.
But Conrad won't have any of it. His hurt and shame overwhelm him, and despite Jennifer's pleas, the relationship evaporates. Ultimately, Conrad becomes abusive, and following a particularly violent encounter one night, Jennifer grabs a pair of shears and does a little makeshift castration on the spot. Then she splits.
Now Conrad, driven to reclaim his severed manhood, embarks on a quest to find Jennifer. And he's willing to do anything to reach his objective.
I went into Nowhere Man expecting a Troma-like schlockfest. All signs pointed to it: the presence of Debbie Rochon, the fact that it's about a guy searching for his genitalia, the cameo by Lloyd Kaufman. And while there are trace amounts of dark humor woven through the script (particularly the self-parodying clips of the porno), the film plays it straight. Guess what? It kind of works too.
Aside from the gratuitous, fiery final scene (which will likely make most men cringe), the movie isn't exploitative in nature. McCann crafts the film more as a character study, interweaving flashbacks to tell the story, and that is what worked for me. And it worked well, for that matter. What I was affected by was the dissolution of a healthy relationship when a particularly ugly skeleton is released from a person's closet. As soon as Conrad discovered the contents of the videotape, I was drawn in. His reaction, and the subsequent drama that unfolds between him and his fiancée, are exceedingly well executed. I could sense Conrad's anger and could even understand his drive to humiliate Jennifer. He had felt humiliated by the tape -- betrayed, even -- and so he embarks on his own misguided strategy of hurting her. This downward spiral is handled very well, and even though Conrad eventually leaps off the deep end in his behavior, the arc is believable. Just as realistic are Jennifer's attempts to salvage an already broken relationship, followed by her transition from victim to power player.
In the end, that's what Nowhere Man is about. Not Conrad's journey to reunite with his penis or Jennifer's tryst with her porno costar (played by, to quote the disc jacket, "real-life porn star" Frank Olivier, as if that's worthy of accolades; please, the guy's not an astronaut). The film is about power in a relationship, and how it shifts between the partners. That's what is engaging and is brought to intense life by Rodrick. A good little flick, viewed through that prism. As the horror exploitation flick that it seems to want to be at some points...er, not so much.
The technical merits lack on this disc. The picture, a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, is fairly crude. Colors seem a little too oversaturated, with a citrus feel, and some of the visual effects are muddled. Sound quality is mediocre as well. A tinny Dolby Digital stereo track does little to transmit some of the atmosphere of the film. Apart from some thruway extras, the only bonus material of note is the audio commentary track by director Tim McCann and Debbie Rochon, which is decent.
I was surprised by this movie. I expected trash but got a healthy dose of "ain't-bad." Rodrick shines.
Not guilty. Now let's stop all this talk about genital mutilation.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by Director Tim McCann and Actress Debbie Rochon