When struggling single mother and police officer Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) has been denied a transfer, she jumps on the opportunity to move to Bosnia, accepting a job with the UN peacekeepers. Her noble methods and integrity get her promoted to being the head of the UN agency handling the cases of sexual abuse, domestic violence and people smuggling. When she meets two young girls who were forced into prostitution, Kathryn gets sucked into matters way over her head. Turns out that there’s much more at stake than just saving the lives of these two girls.
We are treated to some harsh realities in Larysa Kondracki‘s ‘The Whistleblower’, as its main topic deals with human trafficking. These young girls are subject to sexual humiliation, prostitution and torture. The script does a splendid job in captivating the audience. You really want Kathryn to make a difference, but in the end… will she? Along with her, you soon learn that no-one is to be trusted. There are great powers at play here, and it’s a very dirty game they play. Rachel Weisz puts down a decent performance and proves again what a great actress she is. The whole cast for that matter nails things down appropriately, with a notable mentioning of the young girls playing the victims. ‘The Whistleblower’ could have been another ‘Americans cleaning up a mess in a foreign country’ movie along the lines of Kathryn Bigelow‘s ‘The Hurt Locker’, but it turned out a darker, more interesting and even better picture.
Kotoko has her baby son taken away from her since she’s not deemed fit to raise a child because of her mental instability. So what’s wrong with her? For one thing, she’s seeing two versions of the same person. These stressful hallucinations cause her to commit acts of self-mutilation. Inflicting pain upon herself, seems her way of dealing with it. When Tanaka, a successful but timid writer, shows up, he will becoming the new target of her lovingly violent ways.
It’s best to avoid girlfriends that like to sing a lot. They are mental. Or so Shinya Tsukamoto would have us believe. ‘Kotoko’ deals with topics ranging from self mutilation to schizophrenia, all immersed in a sense of deranged happiness and well-willing violence. Tsukamoto gets his point across, no doubt about that, but he does so in a fairly repetitive manner. And ‘Kotoko’ seems his most artistically liberated feature so far, striking an offbeat note somewhere between intimacy and extremity. But that does by far not make it my favorite film of his. It’s a portrait of a deeply troubled woman, a very disturbing drama with touches of the psychologically scarred, the physical horror and even some poetic aspirations. It’s one of those rare films that’s better off being watched on your own, when you’re in the mood for a depressing piece of introvert author cinema, as its slow pace and dubious nature are not likely to entertain large audiences. The plot occasionally stops to wallow in Kotoko’s mental mirages, but is at its best when you just as much as the titular character start doubting reality. Her reality, that is, and that’s what makes it interesting. Again my expectations were high for Tsukamoto‘s newest, and again – just as it happened with Lucky McKee‘s ‘The Woman’ – I was kind of let down by it, however, only initially this time. Because ‘Kotoko’ is a film that creeps under your skin, and when given some time, it manifests itself as a very disturbing but powerful psycho-drama with flavors of the extreme. Mentally messed up beyond repair. Heavy and touching.
Little Daigo and his older sister Kiriko have a troubled past of their own, with having been born from different mothers and both their parents being deceased now. The supernatural will seep into their lives with the arrival of a mysterious bunny rabbit man. Its motives, whether malevolent or benign, are unclear. Slowly the traumatizing events from their past lives start to unravel, and the rabbit entity seems to be the key to it all.
Because ‘Tormented’ features a giant spooky white rabbit (a guy in a bunny suit mixed with CGI at times), I might as well say right away that any further references to the story of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ are pretty much a load of toilet droppings. Shimizu does deserve a bit of credit for trying to do something unnerving with a bunny costume. In a similar way clowns have been given various treatments in horror movies already, but not so much rabbits (‘Donnie Darko’ comes to mind, but that’s about it). It all succeeds to a certain extent, serving us a mixture not so much of fantasy but rather psychological horror brought forth by hallucinations. The story incorporates understandable metaphorical connections (the aborted rabbit fetus, the splattered blood motive, the tale of the mermaid). Do they add a certain value to the picture? That’s debatable, but they fit nonetheless and they make the film go down as intended, helping to tell the story as opposed to being meaningless images. The 3D has great effect in only a few sequences (the cinema, the frozen raindrops). Takashi Shimizu delivers a film that differs somewhat from his previous efforts like ‘The Grudge’ franchise and ‘Marebito’ (2004), but ‘Tormented’ pretty much feels like a natural evolution for the filmmaker. If you know where he’s coming from, I can’t see why ‘Tormented’ would let you down (because apparently opinions vary widely on it).
ELIMINATE: ARCHIE COOKSON
How Archie Cookson’s life changed from being a once promising British secret agent to a now washed up bureaucrat, we’ll probably never now. Fact is that he now spends his day at the office translating Russian audio recordings from the Cold War that nobody’s interested in anymore. On top of that, Archie has a drinking problem. As fate would have it, this problem saves his life one day: While being hungover at home, all his colleagues at work are being killed by sinister hit men. Apparently they were looking for tapes containing material that could cause a lot of trouble for certain highly placed members of the British government. However, these tapes are at Archie’s apartment. When he wakes up from his drunken slumber, he’ll soon find out just about everyone wants him dead.
‘Eliminate: Archie Cookson’ is a stiff comedy that never really flat-out ventures into thriller territory, yet it has a darker tone to it than what you’d expect from a comedy. The humor in the film is dry, yet occasional violent outbursts might occur. In that sense, ‘Eliminate: Archie Cookson’ is a bit of an odd picture, and feels kind of like a very British early Joel & Ethan Coen film. It took me at least half an hour to get into it, because the tone is somewhat hard to grasp and the events develop at a fairly slow pace. But once past the first act, you should be along for the amusing ride. The cast is capable, so no harm done there either. The film doesn’t pack too many surprises, but ‘Terminate: Archie Cookson’ certainly is a notable debut feature from first-time writer/director Robin Holder.
Fathers are being raped, butchered and eaten by a maniac called Fuchman. At least that’s what you think is going on, because halfway the movie the villain breaks with his modus operandus by capturing and torturing a female. So… does that make the Fuchman bi-sexual? What was this film about again anyway? The third act even takes our three trashy heroes up to heaven and straight down to hell. Senseless insanity, you gotta love it.
‘Father’s Day’ is about as demented as things can get. The notorious Troma Studios (‘The Toxic Avenger’ series, ‘Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead’, etc) did it again: Upon seeing a fake trailer for ‘Father’s Day’, they threw $10.000 to the guys from Astron-6 (a collective of 5 filmmakers) simply instructing them to turn this wacked out trailer into a full feature length movie. And so they did. As to be expected, truly all bets are off in ‘Father’s Day’. Given the fact it was written & directed by five people, ‘Father’s Day’ turns out the equivalent of your ultimate smoothie mixture, throwing as many different kinds of fruits & vegetables you can find in that blender. Only, replace the nutrition value of all ingredients with every possible junk food recipe imaginable. A true cholesterol overdose in terms of smudge, gore and what not else immoral subject matter you can think of. And yes, these guys don’t even mind taking things one step too far whenever they feel like it. Yes, I’m talking about the penis slicings! What was up with that? Ouch! I didn’t even forgive Lars Von Trier for it, so I’m sure as hell not forgiving you guys for it. And no, it would not have been okay either if it had been vaginas instead (Damn you again, Von Trier, and Schnaas too!). Okay, yeah, so things do get vulgarly offensive and extremely gross in ‘Father’s Day’. But luckily, none of it all was meant to be taken seriously. As a wildly incoherent, laugh-inducing exercise in bad taste, the film is a huge success. Perfect for a midnight screening with like-minded idiots, uhm, I mean fans, a lot of beer and… well, maybe skip the pizza unless you have a stomach strong enough to handle some of the more disgusting moments. At any rate, Troma can be proud of themselves; they’re still going at it, out to both shock and entertain audiences around the globe. Respect to Kaufman & Co.
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