For anyone expecting a positive review, Judge Paul Pritchard has some grim news for you...
"Gentlemen, that's enough bloodshed for one day."
Grim is set in a future that has seen the USA's economy collapse, thanks to corrupt politicians, leading the government to cut all state funding, and leaving large swathes of the country to fend for itself. Though a public uprising came, the authorities soon crushed it in what the media called "the people versus the United States." As the government lost control of the country, bands of criminals—like the United American Brigade—stepped in to fill the power vacuum, imposing a regime of fear and intolerance on the desperate people.
Caught in the middle of this desperate situation is Nicolas Grim, who after being kidnapped along with his parents, is forced to witness their brutal murders. But rather than opting for a life as a spandex wearing avenger, Grim chooses to repress his feelings for the best part of a decade, until they can no longer be contained, resulting in a bloodthirsty quest for justice.
The main problem with Grim is not that it isn't particularly good, it's that it isn't completely awful either. It's just, well, "meh." For a film that markets itself on its violent content, Grim lacks impact, and not just because of the often clumsy choreography. It's bad enough that the blows so obviously fail to connect, but the scenes that should get the adrenaline pumping are shot with all the excitement of a nurse emptying a bedpan. Adding to the film's woes, and in spite of its title, the tone just isn't dark enough. In fact, the film really lacks both a feel and a purpose. Events unfold with little weight afforded to them. There's never the feeling that anything is really at stake. There's no sense of urgency, and for this the film suffers desperately.
Despite its many flaws, it must be said that debutant Adrian Santiago; who wrote, directed, produced, edited and choreographed the film has—stylistically at least—made a more than competent movie. Though the aesthetic is reminiscent of other better genre directors, there's enough here to suggest that, with a tighter script and better cast, Santiago could well have a bright future in the industry. It's hard not to be impressed by Santiago's eye for an interesting shot, but all too often these are not followed up with anything of substance. Santiago's screenplay is desperately short on exciting set pieces, with too much time spent on scenes that expose the stilted dialogue. At times it appears Santiago is aiming for something resembling a more contemplative meditation on revenge, but sadly lacks the ability to pull it off. This also flies in the face of the DVD packaging which proudly declares Grim, "The Most F*cked Up Film Of The Year." The result of this is a film that knows not what it wants to be, and suffers desperately for it. It's almost sad that, for all Santiago's apparent aspirations, he has no option but to end the film with a final act over-reliant on violence, and—worst of all—monologuing from chief villain Atticus Miller.
The level of acting in Grim is typical of low-grade straight-to-video fare, with no one performance really standing out. Had the film been a more straightforward exercise in mindless violence, this may not have been such a problem, but as Santiago has slightly loftier ambitions, the cast are often found wanting.
Though Santiago's dedication to Grim should be commended, it's difficult to really recommend his film. Castellari's The Bronx Warriors is a far better example of the genre—and despite its camp hero—offers far more entertainment and contains infinitely more replay value.
Tech specs are solid, with a detailed 1.78:1 transfer impressing with its natural colors and sharp image. The stereo soundtrack lacks much range, but still offers a clean mix, with dialogue remaining clear throughout. The DVD contains a feature commentary, courtesy of Santiago, which offers a good insight both into the film and the director's passion for it. Other than that, the disc contains a slideshow of behind-the-scenes stills, and a series of "Tromatic Extras" included, presumably, to pad out the otherwise thin selection of supplementals.
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