Insurgent Pictures // 2010 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 5th, 2010
Urchin. Miscreant. Transient.
When we first meet John Krause (Dan Eberle) he is in a hospital bed. Through a series of flashbacks, which are revisited in more detail as the film progresses. We see how John was shot and left for dead in his own home, while his wife, Jennifer (Jennifer Farrugia), is murdered. Through a friend, John learns that his wife had gotten herself mixed up with drug dealers and, after one particular altercation, taken things too far. As he takes this in, John's emotions begin to take hold, and lead him on the path to revenge.
Many will be reluctant to give Prayer to a Vengeful God a chance due to its lack of dialogue; something that gives the film the whiff of an arty student project, ripe with pretentious drivel that only snooty film critics who are partial to wearing berets could ever possibly enjoy. I'll readily admit I had exactly the same apprehensions going into the film, but quickly had my fears allayed, when, almost immediately, I found myself drawn into the story, thanks in no small part to the film's gritty aesthetic.
Indeed, rather than coming off as pretentious, writer/director/star Dan Eberle simply tosses away the façade built up through dialogue to strip a man, his life, and powerful emotions down until all that is left is the truth. Through its study of a man's unquenchable thirst for revenge, Prayer to a Vengeful God seems to argue that, no matter how civilized or placid we may think we are, all it takes is the right button to be pushed for our more base instincts to take over. Though lead character John Krause's story certainly benefits from not having to concern itself with clunky dialogue, the main benefactor of this artistic decision is the character of Jennifer Krause. Without having to find reasoning for her need to risk a comfortable lifestyle by entering a world of hard drugs and casual sex, Eberle allows actress Jennifer Farrugia's eyes and mannerisms to express the angst that both drives her character and leads to her downfall.
Though the main characters rarely, if ever, say anything, the film does contain dialogue-though it is for the most part reserved for the periphery and only really heard on news reports or busy streets. It's also important to realize that the lack of dialogue never feels forced. Not once did I feel the cast was struggling to emote, or worse, show a lack of faith in the director's vision. In several scenes we are witness to characters conversing, but in these moments the score swells to take over the soundtrack. That you never once feel lost is a credit to all involved in this excellent production. For example, Jennifer's regret at her indiscretions is as palpable as her desire to repeat them. Despite dialogue being rare, sound is still an important part of Prayer to a Vengeful God with an excellent score underpinning the film's tone, and perfectly complementing each scene and reflecting the characters' emotions.
Despite its cool indie vibe and lack of dialogue, Prayer to a Vengeful God should appeal to all fans of revenge cinema. As it progresses, the film reveals itself to be far more mainstream than you'd ever guess from the trailer and DVD artwork. Exemplifying this best is the enigmatic Transient. An aged homeless man, Transient becomes John's mentor, teaching him the ways of the street and removing what civility is left to allow him to become a perfect weapon of vengeance. He's like a hobo Mr. Miyagi, or maybe even Mickey from Rocky. Hell, there's even a training montage! Once John begins to exact his revenge on those that wronged him, Eberle's decision to disregard dialogue really pays off; he has nothing to say to these people, and nothing they could possibly say to him can undo what they've done. Instead, he sets about systematically destroying the guilty with no time for witty one-liners.
Prayer to a Vengeful God deals with the subject of revenge in a pleasingly adult way. Nobody comes out of this clean, as each character's sins are exposed, and their consequences, on both themselves and others, examined. Krause's path is, ultimately, one of self-destruction, as the things that made him who he is are jettisoned by an all-consuming need for retribution.
The film contains a final revelation that is as unexpected as it is blood-soaked, and adds a new dimension to the preceding events -- particularly Jennifer's transgressions -- while revealing the futility of John's actions. It perfectly solidifies the arguments made in Eberle's writing and direction, which are both first rate.
The cast is, without exception, outstanding. Leading by example, Eberle gives an electrifying performance as John Krause; his regression from a suit-wearing businessman to machete wielding psycho being as riveting as it is believable. At the film's start Krause is the epitome of mild mannered, but, as the film progresses, we see him become one serious badass who has no regard for his own safety and only revenge on his mind. Suddenly, and through no fault of his own, Krause is thrust into a world he had previously only ever read about or seen on the news. Clearly he had no time for these people before they forced their way into his life, and now that he's in their world his feelings of disgust toward them are all too evident, thanks to Eberle's performance. Paul James Vasquez, who first met Eberle while teaching drama classes at high school, plays the role of the Transient, and sadly passed away before the film's release. Vasquez, who also appeared in Rutger Hauer flick Blind Fury, instills a calm assuredness to the role, making Transient effortlessly cool, despite his scruffy demeanor. Jennifer Farrugia is also worthy of a mention. A scene where Jennifer sneaks back home after a night of infidelity, while her husband sleeps in their marital bed, perfectly sums up the mixed feelings the character is having as her new, exciting, and dangerous activities clash with her cozy, mundane, but safe home life.
The 1.78:1 transfer is sharp throughout, with high levels of detail and rich colors. The 5.1 soundtrack is also worthy of praise. Due to time constraints the screener disc was bereft of extras, though the retail copy will contain a documentary, "Power of Silence: Inside Prayer to a Vengeful God." Thankfully, the good people at Insurgent made this documentary available to us, for inclusion in the review. This making of allows director Eberle to discuss his thought process going into the project, and offers an excellent insight into this fascinating picture that also offers a better understanding of the powerful visuals presented throughout the film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Insurgent Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site