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Case Number 23199: Small Claims Court

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Essential Killing

New Video // 2010 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 26th, 2012

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The Charge

Douchebag on the loose!

The Case

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.

The Verdict

Something new is always appreciated, but screw this guy.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: New Video
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Action
• Drama
• Foreign
• Thriller
• War

Distinguishing Marks

• Interview


• IMDb
• Official Site

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