There are worse crimes than killing a person.
I found this film to be very interesting but disturbing. Since this was obviously the result it was intended to have, I guess it works. Back when I was hearing voices, it probably wouldn't have been very productive for me to see this one.
It's difficult to do really dark comedy, at least without just being dark and decidedly not funny. The Coen brothers of course have this gift, and this film very much has the feel of a darker Coen brothers film, i.e. the weird and disorienting atmosphere that never lets you settle into a rut. This type of film certainly ain't gonna go over big at the Family Odeon in Peoria; but, if you like your comedy sometimes a little sick, you'll appreciate the work here.
One problem with this type of film is that the actors have to be able to be to find the humanity in the situations they find themselves in. In this case, the star of the film, Norman Reedus (8MM, Mimic), pulls it off well. It's completely believable that this kid (Harry Odum) could go postal given the circumstances of his life, without being inherently evil. I'd never seen him work before, and was very impressed by his effort here. This role was definitely not light work.
The love interest, and all movies must have a love interest by law, is played by Elina Lowensohn (Schindler's List and Basquiat.) She plays the slightly disabled Hungarian refugee maid of the head mob honcho, stranded in Midwestern American hell and wanting to get out. She is perfect for this role I think, with the kind of face and aura that fits well as the only bright point in Harry's otherwise death camp (but with a heart) sort of existence.
Deborah Harry (Heavy) plays Harry's mother, Kate Odum. I think she tagged this role pretty well. As the mother who had to do more than a few too many desperate things to keep them off the streets, she plays Mommy Dreadest perfectly. Her weird, vaguely (and eventually definitely) incestuous vibe keeps the feel very edgy and strange. And you can almost understand how she can have the kind of grip on her son that she seems to have.
The video was more than crisp enough not to draw any attention to itself. The movie takes place in a very downtrodden and run down small Midwestern town, so the colors are mostly muted and faded. But the tacky colors that are there are well rendered. Though there is a little action, it's mostly a talky, so the surround system doesn't get a big workout, though it does have a 5.1 track in addition to a stereo track.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I was bummed to find that this disc has nothing but a single, wimpy trailer. I would have loved to learn more about the folks who made this film, if for no other reason than to make sure I live far away from them. I guess it's probably hard for smaller, independent films like this to afford the extras. But I absolutely love good commentary tracks, which can give considerable insight into the characters and behind the scenes situations.
One kind of weird and never explained thread involves a character who you don't learn until the end is actually a figment of Harry's imagination. It looks like perhaps it was more extensive, but didn't work out for some reason, and ended up being half salvaged during editing perhaps. This leaves it almost a distraction that should have been completed or left out.
This film is definitely not fun for the whole family, unless of course your family grabs the popcorn and makes a little quality time whenever Taxi Driver comes on cable. I worry sometimes that this type of film, though a serious and worthy effort, is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's psyche somewhere out there in the great underbelly of America. But, pretending that this sort of world doesn't exist isn't going to make it go away.
The film is based on a book titled "Portrait of a Young Man Drowning," which would make a good subtitle for this film. I haven't read the book, but somehow I'm guessing that in the book even the folks who didn't get brutally murdered didn't live happily ever after. But most likely the lawyers made them lighten it up a bit.
This disc is acquitted, though someone out there may be found guilty due to gunning down a few dozen people at the local BK Lounge after watching it. But, if you are not currently under court imposed psychiatric care and like this type of fare, I definitely recommend it.
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Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Trailer
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