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A love story.
Independent filmmaker Shane Ryan is making a name for himself as the crafter of cheap-looking movies designed to cause maximum discomfort for viewers. He has returned to the territory of his reviled Amateur Porn Star Killer, as director and leading man, to make three sequels. Ryan also acts in others' films, returning the favor to some of his collaborators. Aside from the subject of this review, I haven't seen Ryan's other films and my impression of his works is based on what I have read and the trailers I have seen. That said, it is quite a relief that in Warning!!! Pedophile Released Ryan shows he isn't a degenerate with a video camera. Indeed, it's evident he's got an eye for visual compositions as well as a willingness to exercise restraint when it comes to some heavy material.
Warning!!! Pedophile Released is the story of what happens to two young people in an uncaring society that tears them apart. Echo, played by Ryan's regular muse Kai Lanette (Amateur Porn Star Killer 2), is 12 when she falls in love with Malachi (Ryan). However, he's 18 and that makes him a pedophile. Actually, the pair claims they never had sex, but I'll come back to this later. So, Malachi is sent to prison and Echo vows to wait for him. Their story is then told in three parts.
In the first part, we follow Echo three years after her separation from Malachi. A group of teen boys savagely rape her. Echo's father kicks her out of the house when he discovers that she's pregnant. She bums around her crappy small town with nowhere to turn. Jump forward to the second act when Echo is slightly older and selling herself on the street and stealing to survive. Her life is miserable but she manages to begin turning herself around in time for the third part of the story. On parole, Malachi reunites with Echo after six years behind bars. It's plain to see that he's not the same man anymore. He can barely talk to, let alone touch, Echo. To make matters worse, someone is distributing flyers around the neighborhood labeling him as a sex offender.
In case you haven't guessed yet, this is not a cheerful movie. The entire point of the exercise is to show how much these characters suffer because of society's coldness to their love for each other. Their suffering isn't trivial, clichéd humiliations either. No one shoves Echo's head into a toilet, for example, but watching her freeze in a parking lot or spend a long day aimlessly wandering can be a pitiful sight too. The story by Ryan and Lanette seems too gritty and grounded to be merely made up. I wonder what part of Echo's story is drawn from intimate knowledge? Are the filmmakers revealing something deeper about youth who end up on the streets? While watching the movie I couldn't shake the feeling that I really hope this is all fiction. The sadness and despair on display is that affecting at times.
Stepping back from the visceral reaction to the movie, the narrative has some big unanswered questions that feel like cheats. For starters, who exactly turned in Malachi? In flashbacks, we see the two young lovers being interrogated like they're the victims of a witch-hunt. It isn't clear who ratted out their teenage romance. Furthermore, how does Malachi get a long prison term if in fact they didn't do anything more than kiss? His being sent to prison is the thing that sets in motion the rest of the movie. This is the reason their lives are ruined. It's inexcusable that this fundamental story issue isn't logical. And what did Echo do about the pregnancy?
The few times when Ryan wishes it, the picture is quite good. There are fleeting moments when the image shows fairly sharp detail and accurate colors. However, the majority of the time, the camera is exceedingly shaky and the focus of the frame appears arbitrary. There are also heaps of video effects applied to the footage so the colors are shifting and scenes are forcefully blending together. It is possible that the overuse of video effects is just a strategy to keep those lengthy montages of Echo wandering the town and countryside interesting, but it doesn't. Some scenes are overexposed and others are under lit and noisy. Whether or not the overall picture quality of the movie is intentional, the random visual style is tiresome after a while.
The sound mix is more attentive to the music than the dialogue. Actors' voices are usually too distant and quiet or else the room they filmed in has an awful ambient quality. This isn't a big loss as the few dialogue scenes aren't very substantial and often it's shrill yelling. If Ryan wants to shake off the amateur vibe in his work, he should put more effort into the quality of the sound.
There is raw emotion and a real artful presence to parts of this movie. However, the narrative needs to be tightened up and the visual style needs a purpose. Warning!!! Pedophile Released feels somewhat exploitative but it can't be dismissed outright.
Parole is granted.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
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