Lightning Media // 2009 // 81 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // March 4th, 2011
David (Sam Page, Mad Men) and Georgie (Natassia Malthe, D.O.A.: Dead or Alive), on a pre-wedding trip to Spain, head out to the club for a little fun. Because of David's father, a powerful but mysterious businessman, they get the royal treatment. But after taking some freebie pills courtesy of the club owner, things get pretty hazy. Before David realizes what's going on, Georgie has disappeared and nobody seems to care. Forgetting everything else, he searches for his love, only to find that she has been taken as a slave to a sex boat, where she must service a Russian creep calling himself "The White Arab." Can David get on the boat and save his girl, or are the powers of white slavery too powerful even for this schmuck?
Judging exclusively from the packaging, Slave looks like some kind of sex and violence drenched piece of torture porn. While it doesn't deliver on that dubious promise, the film is most certainly exploitation, just coming from a different and more palatable angle. It's insubstantial and inconsistent, but quite a bit better than I expected; if you go in with muted expectations, you might actually enjoy it.
Slave has one of the most basic kinds of thriller plots, in which somebody has disappeared and a person close to them has to hunt them down. It's an easy entry into suspense, especially if you're going the lurid route that director Darryn Welch takes in his debut feature. With fifteen minutes or so of extra sex, this could very easily have been a Laura Gemser-era Emanuelle movie. That's not exactly a negative; I like those movies, for whatever reason. Using the most bare of plot structures, Welch piles on the genre touches. From David's scumbag father to the cadre of accomplices to the White Arab himself, Welch makes use of some of the cheapest cliche's the genre has to offer, and most of them made me smile. The characters are over the top and the plot is generally absurd, but that's what you want in a cheap thriller.
I give Slave extra marks for its cynical attitude toward its subject. While David is earnest in his search for Georgie and Welch manages to get us to care a little about the characters, the ending of the film is a series of progressively darker moments, where each discovery producing more and more pessimistic statements on love and family. This is far from the most interesting thriller you're going to see, but I do appreciate the lack of a nicely-tied bow on top of the story; I won't remember it for long, but I enjoyed myself.
We received a screener from Lightning Media for Slave, so the final product will not reflect what we have here. The image, while anamorphic, is average at best, with some off colors and a few digital artifacts. It's not terrible, but I imagine it will improve on the retail copy. The sound is a fine, but uninspiring stereo mix. The dialog and musical score, which sounds like it was composed by a computer program that writes generic music, are clear enough. There are no extras.
If you go into Slave with the completely wrong impression of what kind of movie it is, the film is surprisingly enjoyable. It is, however, a decidedly mediocre production that has a few redeeming qualities for an extremely mild recommendation.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lightning Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R