The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

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This is the last of our Stars Play 11, and also the second of our UK Appreciation Week at the DTVC. I picked it to watch before Netflix dumped it in part because I had in mind the idea to do a week like this, and I'd wanted to check this out for sometime. Something of a darling on the indie film circuit, it did have a very limited (10 screens according to imdb) theatrical release here in the States, before going on to do its thing in the video market.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed follows two men (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston), lovers, who kidnap a rich girl (Gemma Arterton), and hold her for ransom so they can run away together on the cash. But things don't go quite as planned when it's revealed that Martin and Gemma might be more intimate than Eddie realized.

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For me, this is the ultimate style over substance movie. Plot-wise, this is pretty trite and well-worn territory, even if it might be packaged in a different box. But it's really well-shot, and the way the tension builds then drops and we're strung along the entire time, is something far above what you'd expect from the plot's pay grade. This is truly inspired stuff in that sense. It also goes a little bit out there, not just in its brutality, but in the way it tries to cover every detail of the kidnapping. Do we need to know how they mitigate the issue of her going to the bathroom? Maybe not, but for those who feel they need that detail, the movie gives it in a way that makes you wish you didn't ask; but also in a way that adds depth to Alice Creed's plight as a kidnap victim. While this might be, as I said above, well-worn territory story-wise, it brings more than enough to the table stylistically that it's worth checking out.

We've done a lot of action films here at the DTVC, and a common plot element in them is the classic damsel in distress. Maybe she's restrained, maybe she isn't, but the idea is she's a helpless female waiting for our hero to save her. That is not anything close to what we have going on here. This is not some perfunctory hands-tied-in-front by the baddie, which allows our plucky heroine to in some way affect her escape, this is tightly tied to the bed with a ball-gag and a hood, nothing fun or romantic about that. It's very brutal in fact. You also may remember a film I did with a similar plot called Trap, and there I talked about the sensuality in bondage that the director, Jason Horton, played upon as the story unfolded. There's no sensuality here either, unless she's a hardcore chick, this is no Valentine's Day role-play. The Disappearance of Alice Creed deconstructs the notion of the damsel in distress in popular culture, and makes it much more brutal and visceral.

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That makes me wonder all the more why Gemma Arterton-- or any actor or actress for that matter-- would take a role like this. Not only would it be taxing to shoot these scenes, but, especially for an actress, none of this would look all that glamorous or flattering. She said that's why she picked this film, because it was so outside of her comfort zone, and she wanted something where she didn't have to worry about her hair and make-up. The next line most people would say after that is "you couldn't pay me enough...", except, she wasn't paid much for this either. The thing is though, no matter how good the other two actors were, this film is nothing if Arterton doesn't do what she did. I don't know how you equate it to something like Michael Fassbender starving himself for Hunger, but it's along the same lines and should be recognized as such.

Other than Arterton, Eddie Marson also has a pretty impressive Hollywood blockbuster CV (did you like my use of CV during UK week?). I almost didn't recognize him with the goatee. He's very chilling as the mastermind behind this plan, and works as a great counterbalance to Arterton's distress. Martin Compston is the man in the middle, and I don't want to give too much away by discussing his character. The only thing I'll say is it's with him that I felt like the writing was at its weakest, and as the character transitions, he feels the least organic. But, just the same, it's not the story, but the rest of the style that makes this a solid watch.

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This film was shot on the Isle of Man, and, unfortunately, my school trip didn't make it over there. One place we did go was Hull. I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't so much a tour stop, as it was where our hotel was after spending the day in York. It wasn't that bad, really. My buddy and I went out to one of the local bars and didn't have a problem. It was when we got back to the hotel that we found out that some of the kids from the New Jersey class that was traveling with us had excited some locals in a Rav-4. Why anyone would start trouble in a foreign city is beyond me, but Hull? Anyway, after that we were relegated to our hotel, where my buddy and I drank and played pool.

If you're looking for a strong, brutal, taut thriller, this might work for you. It may test your sensibilities, but it's also very well-shot, and the tension is woven masterfully. This isn't for everyone, but if you like what I've said about it, I'd give it a look.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1379177/

2 comments:

  1. great review. i really dug this flick. well worth a look and a little different from your run-of-the-mill thriller..

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  2. This was also the last Starz film I watched on Netflix before they took them all away. It wasn't too bad. Crime thrillers get kind of repetitive and dull after awhile but this one stayed sharp and entertaining all the way through. Great review.

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