Judge David Johnson has an out-of-control obsession. He can't get enough Kix.
An obsession out of control.
In the world of sexually-charged psychological Polish thrillers, there can only be one king. And I hereby do grant that title to The Underneath, a small, character-driven foreign outing that effectively explores the aspect of unbridled lust and how combining it with an unstable alpha male mind can lead to a whole lot of craziness.
There are four primary characters in the film: Piotr, a hard-luck writer desperate for a chance to earn some coin or whatever the appropriate currency; his supportive wife Iza; Michal, Piotr's old mate, Iza's former lover, and a real big-shot in the advertising world; and Ania, Michal's newest girlfriend and the almost immediate object of Piotr's unfettered obsession.
The quartet sequesters themselves away at Michal's beach house for some wining and dining and to talk about a potential business opportunity for Piotr. It's not long before Ania grabs the attention of Piotr's libido and his marriage and friendship with Michal are endangered. And the endgame will find Piotr doing some fairly illegal things.
For what it is, The Underneath works. What is it? An intimate tale of four friends—okay, acquaintances—and how powerful carnal desires can drive a seemingly normal guy bat-@#$% crazy. Granted, this isn't necessarily unique territory that's being plowed or a surprise to any burgeoning psychologists out there and/or common observers of the average lustful male. But the acting is strong and the stakes are raised consistently—and sometimes jarringly—enough to keep the simple and uncomplicated plot interesting.
Piotr is the guy who drives the story forward as he is the one consumed by the obsession and actor Zbigniew Kaleta injects his performance with right mixture of awkward hesitation and full-on id. There is a point where thing get out of hand and the film's primary concern is escorting Piotr to that moment, which is legitimately unsettling. You'll probably guess that what moment will be, so it's a tribute to the performances and the pacing of director Marek Gajczak to elicit a genuine emotional reaction.
There's not much else to say. The Underneath is brisk (78 minutes) and character-focused so it probably won't appeal to a mainstream audience, but if this is your cup of tea, it's a well-executed, er, affair.
No-frills disc: a clean anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo (Polish with English subtitles) and a still gallery.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
• Still Gallery
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