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On the Count of Three

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A dark comedy about suicide is a risky proposition for any filmmaker; the sheer amount of possible tonal whiplash could overwhelm and render the piece unsavoury and in dubious taste. First time director Jerrod Carmichael manages to avoid any such potential pitfalls by creating a piece that is grounded foremost in empathy and selflessness.

The film begins in a jarring manner. Two men stand outside a strip club in the early morning with guns pointed at each other’s heads. These men aren’t enemies, they’re actually best friends who have entered into a suicide pact. The camera cuts away, but the audience hears only one shot. What happened?

Going back to events earlier in the day, we see Kevin (Christopher Abbott) in a psych ward trying to convince a therapist that despite his extremely recent suicide attempt he should be let out. Elsewhere, Val (Jerrod Carmichael) attempts to strangle himself in his work bathroom after being recently promoted but is interrupted by a co-worker coming in loudly singing a cheesy uplifting ditty.

Val decides to break Kevin out of the psych ward and takes him to the place where the film begins. He shows Kevin that he has two guns and admits that the idea of suicide brings him great peace. Val is confident that Kevin will agree to the suicide pact as Kevin has been suicidal for years. The moment comes and the men stand opposite each other professing how important their friendship has been. Just as Val shoots, Kevin knocks the gun off target and suggests that they have just one more day and at the end of it they can do the deed.

A buddy comedy with suicide as the final payoff may not sound enticing, yet Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch’s script manages to make the film a magnificent representation of mental health, life-long friendship, the nature of masculinity, and an exercise in catharsis.

On a cold day in New Jersey, Val and Kevin decide what they will do with their last day above ground. Kevin’s goal is to kill a paediatric psychiatrist who molested him as a boy (played against type by Henry Winkler). Val goes along with Kevin to Dr Brenner’s office but as chance would have it the doctor won’t be in until late in the afternoon. That gives the pair a timetable by which to schedule their day.

Although the trope of a movie traversing only a day isn’t new, what Carmichael does with the idea is sincerely interesting. The audience only has a set amount of time to get to know these characters and understand their decisions before a tragic conclusion. It’s a testament to not only the script but the outstanding talent of Abbott and Carmichael that it is achieved.

Val and Kevin’s depression stems from different causes. Val has suffered violence in the past but is currently brought down by a failed relationship and a job that verges on exploitation. Kevin spent his early life in institutions and the only person he could rely on was Val. Their bond is unbreakable, but they are very different characters. Val is reticent and repressed, Kevin is all emotion all of the time. Kevin has no idea of boundaries whereas Kevin has been living inside them for years. The difference between their personalities makes for some excellent humour but also reinforces how important their bond is.

Val and Kevin’s last day on earth together seems chaotic and random, but in fact is calibrated in the script to give the audience maximum insight into the men. Kevin runs into a callous ex-classmate who violently bullied him but now finds the whole thing hilarious and inconsequential. Val receives life-altering news from his ex-girlfriend Natasha – played by Tiffany Haddish who proves once again after Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter that she’s a fine dramatic actress. Val and Kevin veer from indulging in a final dirt bike ride from a place they used to be employed to robbing a convenience store (well not really), to personal visits to people from their lives. In an especially scene-stealing turn, comedian J.B. Smoove plays Val’s abusive father who Val goes to see not for reconciliation but to collect a financial debt owed to him. The scene is violent and unsettling but proves Kevin’s loyalty to his friend.

Loyalty is fundamental in making On the Count of Three part of a necessary conversation about masculinity and trauma. Kevin and Val not only would put a bullet into each other’s heads, they’d stand in front of one for the other. It makes some of their uneasy but naturalistic banter both comic and heartfelt. Kevin indulges in a lot of white guilt about how society has treated his black best friend, but Val’s eye-rolling response elicits genuine laughs whilst being a pertinent criticism of the “white tears” narrative.

Carmichael’s skill behind the camera is evident from lensing kinetic action to capturing small moments of emotion. Rarely do filmmakers come out of the gate with such a mature eye. Almost every aspect of the film is pitch perfect; from the go for broke performance by Abbott to the ironic use of Papa Roach’s suicide anthem ‘Last Resort.’ On paper, On the Count of Three shouldn’t be as entertaining and moving as it manages to be. It’s admittedly not an inspirational film, how could it be? It doesn’t suggest that deep wounds can be solved even by making the decision to end it all. What it is, however, is a strikingly crafted piece of cinema that confounds expectations and delivers a grace note to two people who have been systematically downtrodden by violence and trauma by instead concentrating on how they have managed to sustain and uplift each other.

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Dual

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Writer/director Riley Stearns, in his relatively short feature film career, has made a trademark out of creating high concept but low budget black comedies that feature a range of outsider characters pitting their wills against oddball antagonists.

In 2014’s Faults a cult deprogrammer and author (Leland Orser) who is on the skids becomes involved in what appears to be the abduction and rescue of a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) from a suicide cult. In Stearns’ best film to date, 2019’s The Art of Self-Defense  a socially disenfranchised man (Jesse Eisenberg) is severely beaten during a mugging and ends up taking martial arts lessons from a mysterious and nefarious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola). In Dual Stearns once again takes a fascinating concept; what if we could clone ourselves so that when we die, our loved ones will not have to feel the loss, upending it into a battle of wills between two women fighting for a mundane existence.

Sarah (Karen Gillan) lives a quiet and quotidian life in an unidentified place in America (filmed in Finland, there are no markers for where the movie is set). Her boyfriend, Peter (New Zealand actor Beulah Koale) is often away due to his job. Her mother (Maija Paunio) is overbearing and judgemental and won’t leave Sarah alone with her constant calls and texts.

One day Sarah begins to vomit massive amounts of blood. A visit to a doctor confirms she has a fatal disease, although one that is unlikely to incapacitate her until close to her death. Sarah’s subdued reaction to the news of her impending death would be surprising in another narrative, but in Dual Sarah’s lack of affect and the impenetrability of her emotions are part of Stearns’ world building.

The film seems to be set in an alternate now, with the only significant difference being that genetic cloning exists.

Sarah decides on the option to have a clone made and with just a swab of DNA a new Sarah emerges. There is only one issue, clone Sarah has blue eyes whereas the original has brown.

The small detail of the clone being imperfect seems to go beyond just eye colour. According to the cloning agency, the clone must live with the original to learn their traits. Almost immediately, Sarah’s clone displays that she’s not particularly interested in learning how to be Sarah but instead is actively competing to be better than Sarah. Clone Sarah is more charming and outgoing than Sarah and soon makes Sarah redundant from her own life by becoming the preferred Sarah to both Peter and Sarah’s mother.

Original Sarah’s problems ironically get worse when she finds out that her mystery disease has gone into permanent remission. She will live, or rather, she might live as the laws surrounding clones means that she will have to fight the other Sarah in a duel to the death as there can be only one. The opening scene of the film demonstrates the duel, wherein two Robert Michaels (played by Theo James) battle it out in an arena using an array of weapons.

Original Sarah is somewhat invigorated by the upcoming duel and takes to training with survivalist Trent (Aaron Paul). Sarah is broke and paying for the upkeep of her clone and training is draining the last of her finances. After a sexual advance as another form of payment for her lessons is upended, the cost ends up being dance lessons. The small moments of absurdity displayed in the scenes between Sarah and Trent are the most comic moments in the film and could have been milked for its comedic potential more.

The main issue with Dual is that although the concept is rich, the execution is lacking. Doppelgängers are a rich subject. From Poe to Dostoyevsky, we’ve been taught that individual identity is crucial and when that is stripped, madness can result. Richard Aoyade’s film The Double (loosely based on Dostoyevsky) managed the theme better and Jesse Eisenberg conveyed how crushing it is to be replaced by a better version of his character with all the attendant complexity required to flesh out the conundrum.

Stearns leaves a lot of complexity off the table. Karen Gillan gives a respectable performance as the two Sarahs but is hamstrung by slight characterisation. Perhaps Stearns intended Sarah to be so ordinary that the notion that any one of us could be replaced and not missed is what he’s exploring. However, as the film comes to a close (with a great final scene) it appears that wasn’t really the intention and instead he’s commenting on the mundanity of life.

Dual had the potential to explore the human condition through a clever concept but eventually lacks any punch. Droll as Stearns is, ideas behind Dual never properly hit the mark. There should be some existential terror attached to the idea that one can be replaced and eliminated by a version of oneself, but Stearns holds off on going that dark. If he’d been willing to fully scrutinise his ideas, Dual could have been a subversive masterpiece about what it is to live; instead, it’s curiously inert and not well enough managed to reach its philosophical potential.

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Bullet Train

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You know what used to be cool? Heading down to the local video shop and taking a chance on some random action thriller. Usually egged on by the goateed clerk behind the counter, you’d end up with flawed but engaging flicks like 2 Days in the Valley (1996), The Big Hit (1998), Thursday (1998) or one of a hundred other Tarantino/Guy Ritchie imitating flicks that really hit the spot. In recent times, that spot is either lightly touched by streaming options or – more often – ignored entirely. Which is why a film like Bullet Train is such a welcome experience at the cinema, even if it does feel like a relic from the late 1990s.

Bullet Train is the wild and woolly tale of mindfulness-obsessed, reluctant hitman Ladybug (Brad Pitt). Ol’ mate has to retrieve a briefcase from a bullet train that’s travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto. Simple enough, right? Wrong, because apparently every other bloody hitman is on the damn train and they’re significantly less reluctant than him. What follows is a violent, twisty, chatty romp of a film that introduces us to a host of colourful characters and then spends a good deal of screen time gleefully killing them off in gory, well executed ways.

Bullet Train takes a little too long to leave the station, and like a lot of those ’90s flicks we mentioned earlier, has a few obnoxious habits. Character names burst onto screen with a musical sting when we first meet them, everyone’s as loquacious as a meth head with a thesaurus and the number of storytelling techniques “borrowed” from Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie beggars belief at times. However, once the plot starts rolling along the film finds its feet and becomes something far more interesting. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) executes the splattery set pieces with aplomb and enough sense of comic timing to make even the goofier beats (like the backstory for an intimate object) land.

Performances, too, are great, with Brad Pitt in fine form, Joey King superb as the malevolent Prince and the double act of Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Tangerine) and Brian Tyree Henry (Lemon) one of the film’s highlights. There are also a bunch of agreeable and funny cameos that we won’t spoil; suffice to say this is a stacked cast.

Bullet Train is certainly not the second coming of cinema nor will it have you looking at the world through fresh eyes. However, if you’re up for a film that’s well directed, features a superb cast, is chockers with twists and set pieces and is really only interested in delivering a good time, then pretend like we’re a video shop clerk turning you onto something unexpected and hook into the goofy throwback delights that Bullet Train has to offer.

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A Leg

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This curious Taiwanese film starts off looking like it’s going to be deliciously dark and funny – and it is. But the black comedy is just a wrapper. Underneath, there’s a sense of melancholy and regret as it explores a problematic marriage.

Zi-Han (Yo Yang) is lying in a hospital bed. His lower leg is septic. The brusque Dr Gao tells Zi-Han’s wife that the leg needs to be amputated. A lively classical soundtrack adds a touch of irony.

But things go terribly wrong. Zi-Han not only loses his leg – he loses his life. And then the leg itself is lost…

The newly widowed Yu-Ying (Gwei Lun-Mei) is determined to reunite the leg with Zi-Han’s body, so he can be cremated whole, according to custom. And so begins not one, but two tales – Yu-Ying’s search for her husband’s leg, plus the flashbacked history of the pair’s relationship, as seen through Zi-Han’s eyes. So much happens in this fast-paced and unpredictable gem, with one incident unfolding into the next to tell the whole sorry story of just how Zi-Han wound up in hospital.

Zi-Han is handsome, self-assured … and flawed. He falls in love with the graceful ballroom dancer Yu-Ying and they become a couple, both on and off the dance floor. His story is one of poor decisions that have serious repercussions and cause great pain to his wife. Her story is one of love and commitment, as she navigates a comically Kafkaesque bureaucratic hospital system to find the lost leg. It’s a unique story that’s brilliantly told, involving gambling, running, hiding, dancing and much more.

The performances are all stellar, with much humour coming from an excellent and quirky supporting cast. Gwei Lun-Mei is exceptional as the grieving widow. She is the heart of the piece and what she goes through to find the leg is a bone fide journey.

As oddball as it is, its truths and observations about love and relationships are universal. Novelist Chang Yao-Sheng, who also co-wrote A Leg, makes an assured directorial debut. He keeps you guessing, makes you laugh and, ultimately, moves you.

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Juniper

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Ageing, alcoholism, loss, death, sorrow … this could have been really bleak viewing. It’s off to a slow, sad start but you’re soon drawn into the quietly compelling drama about a teenager, his father and paternal grandmother. Set in New Zealand in the ‘90s, Juniper is anchored by a strong script that wastes no words.

Juniper berries are the key ingredient of gin, which flows freely across the three generations represented in this film. Sam (George Ferrier) is a taciturn high school student who has recently lost his mother. His father Robert (Marton Csokas) has brought Sam’s wheelchair-bound grandmother, Ruth (Charlotte Rampling) from England to New Zealand to take care of her. But Robert is soon out of the picture, leaving Sam alone with Ruth and her nurse Sarah (Edith Poor) on a gorgeous slice of New Zealand countryside.

Ruth is difficult. Bitter. Blunt. She loves her gin. She swears at doctors and vicars and she’s tough on Sam, who is not remotely interested in getting to know his nan. There are no niceties. Sam will do only the bare minimum to help the incapacitated Ruth, who he calls by her first name. But this relationship is set to thaw…

There are a few moments of lightness in writer/director (and actor) Matthew Saville’s first feature, which is partly based on experiences with his own grandmother. He draws fine performances out of his cast, particularly the talented Ferrier. But the real star here is Rampling. She is subtly sensational, conveying complex emotions with a single glance. Yes, Ruth is difficult, but Rampling – now in her mid-70s – makes her unforgettable. The legendary actress worked on the script with Saville and the writer/director has described her as “intelligent, funny and a little brutal”. Seems Rampling is not unlike Ruth.

It’s a tall order, weaving these hard edged emotional themes into something balanced and watchable. It’s not as if this hasn’t been done before, but Saville’s done it extremely well, with great compassion and insight. Instead of something bleak, he’s made something that’s really quite beautiful.

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The Conference

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The conference in question here is the Wannsee one, a breakfast meeting held in a mansion by a lake in Berlin in 1942. Those attending were members of the SS and The Nazi Party and of the ministerial bureaucracy, and the key item on the agenda was the planned extermination of all the Jews in Europe via the so-called Final Solution.

The bland generality and vagueness of the title here is rather apt, because one of the most chilling aspects of the conference was the way in which the participants spoke – for the most part at least – in chilling euphemisms. (“Special treatment” is, for example, a favoured way of referring to murder.) The conversation does get more explicit as it progresses, with only the slightest – understandably nervous – suggestion of any moral reservations by anyone.

There have been a couple of previous films on exactly this subject, the more recent one being a very good 2001 TV movie (Conspiracy) in which Kenneth Branagh portrayed the presiding chairman Reinhard Heydrich, the principal architect of The Holocaust. This version – released to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the horrible event – is even better and more powerful, not least by virtue of actually being German.

Philipp Hochmair plays Heydrich with an ingratiating and incongruous smile which you won’t soon forget. Equally indelible are the shots of black Nazi staff cars slowly pulling into the driveway, and the robotic impersonality of Adolf Eichmann (Johannes Allmayer). Speaking of Eichmann, the script – although fictionalised – is based on the minutes which he wrote about the meeting.

The Conference would actually be quite tedious were it not for the extreme reality being alluded to, because objectively it’s little more than 105 minutes of men talking while they sit around a table. And indeed, that limitation does create the occasional longueur, but they’re fleeting and this is a pretty compelling drama overall.

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Special Delivery

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It’s been a long take between gigs for director PARK Dae-min, with his last action adventure, an adaptation of the 17th Century folk-legend, Seondal: The Man Who Sells the River, releasing in 2016. The architect-come-director returns with Special Delivery, a high-octane Korean thriller that trades traditional hanbok for souvenir jackets and trucker caps while replacing horse drawn carts with modified BMW E34 and E39s.

While Special Delivery heralds the welcome return of its director, it also marks the first lead role of PARK So-dam since her break-out performance in the Oscar winning Parasite.

Set largely in the honeycombed backstreets of Seoul, JANG Eun-ha (So-dam) works as a driver for an underground delivery service that specialises in off-the-book jobs. Quietly cool and unrivalled at her job, Eun-ha unexpectedly finds herself at the centre of a conspiracy involving corrupt cops, violent gangsters and a growing body count as her latest assignment has her tasked with getting a traumatised ten-year-old to safety. A task that not only puts her professional code and safety at risk, but which threatens her adopted family of co-workers, including her mentor and father-figure played by veteran KIM Eui-sung (Train to Busan).

Special Delivery opens on what is arguably one of best car chase scenes put to screen in recent years, effectively pulling its audience into the film’s fictional crime world with ease and finesse thanks to exceptional cinematography and editing from HONG Jae-sik and KIM Sun-min respectively.

While Dae-min handles the ambitious action and fight sequences well, the narrative does occasionally stall under the weight of over-indulgent dramatic moments, which largely distract from the film’s core mantra of mayhem and fun.

Special Delivery undoubtedly shares its cinematic DNA with popular actioners such as the Jason Statham starrer The Transporter and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, and while occasionally faltering under a disjointed narrative, it remains a thrilling, entertaining and solid genre flick thanks to PARK So-Dam’s inspired turn as the infallible delivery driver.

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The Lonely Spirits Variety Hour

Australian, Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

“We must be wary of false prophets and furniture. Sometimes both at once …”

These are the words of Neville Umbrellaman (actor/writer Nitin Vengurlekar), an intellectual, velvet-voiced DJ, doing the midnight shift from his parents’ garage, offering his lonely, late-night listeners existential thoughts, spiked with absurdist humour. But there’s also another aspect to the tale – which won’t be revealed here – that puts a different spin on what’s going on in the garage.

Director Platon Theodoris (Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites) is also this local film’s production designer, and he’s done a superb job, especially with the garage set. The evidently low budget – at least some of which was raised via crowd funding – is transcended by sheer imagination and ingenuity.

Vengurlekar – who co-wrote the script with Theodoris – is a natural comic, and instantly likeable as Neville. Based on the actor’s own live stage show, the film has a strange rhythm all its own, which you fall into easily and quickly. It can get a little repetitive sometimes, but the occasional missteps are invariably followed by a surreal surprise, or some perfectly pitched advertising satire, to draw you back in.

A string of live guests land in Neville’s garage studio – some work better than others. Jazz band Freddy Nietchze’s Good-time Bee-Bop Quintet add a touch of easy listening radio, while Sabrina (Sabrina Chan D’Angelo), who has an all-consuming crush on the awkward Neville, is seductively amusing.

But the highlight is Alison Bennett’s Yvette, and her truly absurdist – and hilarious – monologue in French and German accents about kneading dough. If The Lonely Spirits Variety Hour becomes a cult smash, Yvette’s scene will be the first that fans learn by heart. It all feels very Pythonesque. But it’s Spike Milligan and Jacques Tati that have been specifically called out as inspirations.

Time, the fleeting nature of life, the night, vacuum cleaners … Few of the big subjects escape Neville. Even Schrödinger’s cat is there (and not there). Is there a deeper meaning under all of this bizarre banter? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s for the viewer to work out, but it’s such clever fun. The Lonely Spirits Variety Hour is that rare beast – one that’s on the cusp of extinction – a true original.

Screening and streaming at MIFF

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Unsilenced

Asian Cinema, Drama, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

When a title card bears the message that the ensuing film is based on true events, it can sometimes elicit curiosity about how much heavy lifting the word “based” is doing. When the film in question deals with the politically and historically charged events surrounding the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, this feeling is amplified.

Co-writer/director Leon Lee has depicted this humanitarian crisis in Unsilenced, a moving and often confronting drama/thriller centering on a group of university students trying to survive and thwart a brutal crackdown, with the help of a world-weary American journalist. As admirable and affecting as Lee’s film is, it’s not without missteps. In the words of the late great Roger Ebert, “it’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”

We are initially drawn in by wonderful performances from the cast of young actors. In particular, Ting Wu, Chen Ying-Yu and He Tao’s naïveté is deeply endearing and grounds the film — they are the reason some of the more twee moments land and the dramatic ones are so gripping. Alas, the tonally inconsistent screenplay undermines the momentum by having them sometimes speak in idealistic platitudes.

Early on, engineering PhD student Wang (Ting Wu) appears to be questioned by his professor (a compassionate Chen-Jun Cheng) as to why he didn’t slightly fudge his data to acquire a funding grant. “You know I am a Falun Gong practitioner. I can’t abandon truth just for convenience,” he replies, with wide-eyed innocence. Similarly clunky dialogue peppers the film which, while likely intended to highlight their virtue, slightly hinders relatability.

A further roadblock to the film’s efficacy is its overbearing and unnecessarily saccharine score. Genuinely poignant moments are accompanied by the same emotionally manipulative piano cues, almost without exception. The music is quite beautiful outside the dramatic context of the film, but its flagrant use in these heart-rending scenes outstays its welcome to a predictable and almost humorous degree.

The strength of Leon Lee’s achievement lies in the elevated sense of personal and political stakes throughout. The sequences of torture inflicted on the Falun Gong members, while fleeting, are difficult to stomach — one will be hard to watch for even the most seasoned viewer. Successfully harrowing without being gratuitous, these moments show him as a director in command of his technical craft, while also hinting at the film that might have resulted if he, as a writer, had a firmer grasp on tone.

Just like the spiritual organisation at its heart, Unsilenced is banned in China. Largely filmed in Taiwan, many of the film’s crew used aliases or remained anonymous, fearing the CCP’s retaliation for their involvement. The necessity for this film is undeniable, even if one is left wishing its message had been articulated more clearly.

Find where to watch Unsilenced here.

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Goddamned Asura

Asian Cinema, Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Goddamned Asura is an intriguing, violent and multifaceted psychological drama that delves into the desperation of Taipei’s disenchanted youth, fuelled by an unrelenting struggle to reconcile their social status with the mounting pressures of looming adulthood.

Directed with a deft hand by acclaimed filmmaker Lou Yi-An (A Place of One’s Own), Goddamned Asura embraces an interconnected narrative focusing on six seemingly random individuals, each of whom battle the constant expectations thrust on them by family and profession, and its resulting impact on their mental health and self-worth.

At the heart of the film is Zero (Wang Yu-Xuan), a young female gamer, living with her alcoholic mother and desperate to escape her oppressive reality, and Jan Wen (Joseph Huang), a story writer for an online graphic novel whose inability to stand up to his father’s heavy-handed influence forces the 18-year-old to lash out in a horrifying act of violence.

Between the pair, Lou Yi-An weaves a diverse number of support characters, each of whom set into motion a number of absorbing story threads that pull at the film’s emotive core.

Inspired by an editorial series relating to a murder perpetrated in a public space and an exposé on the conditions of council estate housing, Goddamned Asura is a film with deeply rooted social commentary, but thankfully Lou Yi-An manages to hold his sermon firmly under the surface of his dramatic ambitions, allowing the film to play out with an understated hand, letting his superb ensemble fill each frame with gravity and compulsion.

Wang Yu-Xuan’s (White Lies, Black Lies) performance as the volatile Zero resonates with frustration and anger while Joseph Huang (Transformers: Age of Distinction) delivers an unnerving performance of dysfunction and quiet desperation.

Combined with equally compelling performance from Mo Tzu-Yi, Huang Pei-Jia and newcomer Devin Pan, and a brooding, melodic soundtrack that connects the film’s intertwining threads with a near-phobic anticipation, Goddamned Asura delivers a melancholic tapestry of Taiwan’s stagnant social classes.

Unexpectedly though, its Lou Yi-An’s narrative structure that most infuses the film with its undeniable impact, with the director breaking his film into three distinct chapters.

Offering a casual cause-and-effect flow with the first two segments, the third chapter presents the audience with a “sliding-doors” proposition. While this slight metaphysical turn of events allows the audience to embrace a glimmer of hope for the young protagonists, Lou Yi-An doesn’t waiver from the film’s mandate, which he builds on a foundation of psychological trauma, holding true to each of his characters’ fates within the very grounded, often cruel world they inhabit.

A rich, complex and emotive study of Taipei’s disillusioned youth, Goddamned Asura can occasionally touch on the bleak, offering a dispassionate outlook on contemporary culture. But it’s also oddly enchanting; an intriguing work of cinema that’s both captivating and ambitious in its execution, and ultimately deserving of attention.

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