Saturday, July 6, 2013

Revelation Day 2: Blood Money

You may have the misconception that independent film isn't as fun or exciting as your mainstream blockbusters. The three films I saw yesterday on day 2 of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival completely blows that ludicrous idea out of the water. 

Join me after the jump for reviews of quirky comedy Pictures of Superheroes, Korean crime thriller Pieta and the amazing dark comedy Cheap Thrills.

Pictures of Superheroes is a quirky, dry outsider comedy from writer/director Don Swaynos. It follows recently unemployed maid Marie as she begins a new job cleaning the house of workaholic Eric. This all sounds pretty standard right? The wrinkle is that Eric has a roommate Joe, a slobby, child like slacker. That's probably still not too unusual. The kicker is that Eric is so self involved and busy in his vague work life that he has no idea Joe is even living there. In fact he doesn't even seem to register Joe exists at all. The following hour is increasingly strange and almost surreal as Marie is unwittingly drawn into their unusual lives.

The dialogue is swift, snappy and well delivered by the fantastic ensemble cast. There are some very subtle gags and nuances in the script that will draw laughs from some people while being completely missed by others. Repeat viewings will reveal even more laughs that you probably missed the first time around. Think the vibe of Anchorman or Napoleon Dynamite. This movie will just get funnier the more you see it.

Absurd, hilarious and totally irreverent Pictures of Superheroes is one of my favourite comedy films of the year, independent or otherwise. It has one more showing this Thursday, check it out and let me know what you think.

The night's tone took a dramatic turn as we immersed ourselves in the dark, twisted world of Korean film Pieta. When the poor, destitute workers in the poor part of town cannot pay their debts, the cruel, unfeeling debt collector Gang-Do will be on their doorstep. His punishment is cruel and unusual as his victims will be literally crippled in order to collect on the insurance payments and payback the ridiculous interest. Gang-Do's malicious routine is thrown out of order as Mi-Son arrives claiming to be the mother that abandoned him as a child.

What follows is a visceral tale of cruelty and revenge that is also deeply cerebral.  The pacing is slow and deliberate as the story unwinds and peels back the layers. It's a slow, rewarding burn you have to pay keen attention to. While I think one of the major reveals could of been held back to the final moments for extra punch, it is a well plotted and executed film. It's confronting and downright uncomfortable at times with a tone as icy as its protagonist. It's a very different film experience that won't be a fit for everyone. 

Just what lengths would you go to for money? To feed your wife and infant son? Cheap Thrills tells the story of two childhood friends Craig and Vince when they reunite by pure chance at a local dive. Craig just lost his job and is going to be on the street with his family unless he can find $4,500. Vince is a far less virtuous sort who's had a life of drugs and crime. They encounter Colin and Violet, a couple with cash to burn and a few truly unpleasant ideas on how to give it away. Craig and Vince are then drawn into the night of their lives. There's $250,000 on offer in a series of increasingly daring and horrible challenges that will test their friendship, morals and dignity.

This movie is a dark comedy at it's finest. What begins with decent laughs turns to outright howling with tears streaming down your face as the film gets more and more twisted. The sense of escalation is incredible here and holds no punches. Cheap Thrills has the feel of an episode of Breaking Bad on crack as Craig goes to dark, demented lengths to provide for his family. Definitely a film for those with a sick sense of humour and a strong stomach.

I've already seen two more films today with another late night session in a couple hours. Check back tomorrow for more reviews.

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