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Sweet Karma Japanese Poster Shera Bechard, John Tokatlidis, Frank J. Zupancic, Christian Bako, Laura McLean, Patricia Stasiak, Lana Koseniv, Mark WiebeSweet Karma: when a mute christian girl loses her sister to a generic Eastern European prostitution ring in Toronto there’s only one thing for her to do… find and kill ’em all! So this one’s a Human Trafficking film, but with proper (s)exploitation and revenge elements – a weird, but quite original combo. The low-res, grainy, cheap-looking film don’t help the watchability much, and there’s a couple of grim ‘Baise Moi’ type scenes in there, which are anything but pleasant. The story’s solid enough, and the finale is surprisingly good and tense. I was going to have a slight dig at the acting, but considering the lead is a Playboy Playmate (WTF), and everyone else is unknowns, I’ll give ’em a pass today. When a film’s trailer boasts the line “One of the hottest strip scenes on film”, it tells you all you need to know! Sweet Karma ticks all of the boxes of an old-school revenge film, but with Human Trafficking in there, it pales in comparison to the benchmark that is Lilja-4-Ever.

Score: 3/10

Death Wish: A respectable architect becomes a crime-slaying vigilante after his family are assaulted by street punks. For a film this dark and serious, the acting is nothing short of comedy. Championed by the daughter, who looks like she’s winding up a pantomime audience. Everyone else involved – up to Bronson himself – doesn’t really aim much higher; unfortunately the wife’s short-spiel is the best in the movie. Given the atrocious crimes committed, the first group of antagonists (Hi Goldblum!) also feel like parody/goofy stereotypes. Still, the main scene of violence is brutal, graphic and unsettling – like a punch to the gut, which doesn’t happen to me very often. Hard to miss the overall critique of violence, and considering how much more this has to say than the average crime b-movie; just a shame that it falls down due to the poorly-drawn characters and bad acting. I don’t say this about many ‘classic’ movies, but Death Wish would greatly benefit from a modern, more serious, re-telling.

Score: 5/10

Bound: Violet wants to leave her mobster boyfriend after hooking up with ex-con Corky – so they hatch a little ol’ scheme to steal laundered some money. A project to prove that the Wachowski‘s could actually handle a film before studios gave them money for The Matrix, it had to stand out, so the guys made a noir film with a unique twist – LESBIANS!!! The retro vibe mixed with the semi-corny script, cheapy music and lesbian undertones make the first 30 minutes feel a bit like a soft porno. When two beautiful women start fingerblasting each other it feels like an actual porno, but with more passion & realism. After the setup the film picks up the pace; with the story twisting along and the directors quickly proving that they can handle themselves. It’s very, very slick and stylish, well shot, technically proficient and a dramatic rollercoaster towards the end. A couple of really high tension scenes are also handled masterfully, and although the script’s a bit clunky, the story makes up for it. Both females (Tilly & Gershon) do well with their characters, as does Pantoliana but seeing Cypher with hair is a bit weird. The final act in particular has a real Reservoir Dogsy type feel to it in both the bloody violence, and the career kick-startability. As a readiness project, consider this mission accomplished, although the Wachowski‘s would soon realised that all the money in the world couldn’t make a good film *coughMatrixRevolutionscough*

Score: 6.5/10

How will we convince people to give us money for our project... LESBIOOOBS!!!!

Chronicle: found footage sci-fi flick following three guys who become close friends when they inherit telekinetic/psychokinetic superpowers, and how it changes them. The first ~70 minutes are pretty sweet and the story’s built up well; with solid acting and slap-dash characterisation of three teenagers, who are surprisingly smart (and far more believable) when compared to those of other super-power films. You see them slowly discover and develop their strange new powers which is equally entertaining and fascinating – there’s a few good comedy moments. It’s somewhat disappointing that on the home stretch, one character becomes a ridiculous ‘baddie’ figure (at the mention of the phrase Apex Predator) and the ensuing smash-em-up action-fest feels gratuitous, quota-filling and budget-busting. A quick explanation into the cause of the powers – the hole in the ground – would have been nice, but it’s not a dealbreaker. Overall, Chronicle is a good idea, well executed, boasting smart effects, loads of product placement, feels refreshingly all-American, and in the end, it’s both interesting & watchable; making this a surprisingly mature directorial debut for Josh Trank, who I suspect we’ll be seeing much more of…

Score: 6.5/10

I’m A Cyborg: offbeat buddy movie set in an asylum as two very, very memorable characters form an unlikely friendship. There’s an absolutely insane first part, with a ton of story unfolding, busy shots, hectic scenes, crazy and colourful sets; it all pumps you up and gets you excited. The leading lady absolutely steals the show with her portrayal of a girl who genuinely believes she’s a robot – and can talk to electrical appliances – however the main male (Rain, who hulked up for Ninja Assassin!!WTF!!) and Chan-wook behind the camera are both continually vying for your attention. Most of the script, puns and jokes translate in to English very well, which is uncommon and is a welcome kick in the teeth to the Asian symbolism and culture that doesn’t always export. The only real downer is that whereas the first 70 minutes absolutely fly by, the final 30 feel quite sluggish in comparison as the pace is deliberately throttled… there’s still some great scenes, but it definitely peaks too soon. It’s a great concept, crammed with yet more exciting filmmaking from Park Chan Wook, Almost like a quirkier modern day cuckoos nest, with robots and masks – and I’ll definitely be re-watching it again soon.

Score: 7.5/10