(director/writer: Nicolas Pesce; screenwriter: based on the novel by Ryû Murakami; cinematographer: Zachary Galler; editor: Sofía Subercaseaux; cast: Christopher Abbott (Reed), Mia Wasikowska (Jackie ), Laia Costa (Mona), Marin Ireland (Chevonne), Wendell Pierce (Doctor Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Josh Mond, Antonio Campos, Schuyler Weiss, Jacob Wasserman; Greenwich Entertainment; 2018)
“A twisted psychosexual horror thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A twisted psychosexual horror thriller set in the seventies. It follows in the path of Italian giallo films from that period. Its director and writer is the former pop video helmer, the New York based Nicolas Pesce (“The Grudge”/”The Eyes of My Mother”), who adapted it from the nineties novel (translated to English in 2007) by Ryû Murakami. The stylish Takashi Miike’s 1999 film Audition was also based on a novel by Ryū Murakami. But that turned out to be a superior film, having the Murakami essence Pesce couldn’t give his film.
Reed (Christopher Abbott) is married to Mona (Laia Costa). They have an infant daughter. Dad one night has a violent urge to maim and kill her, as he stands over the baby with an ice pick until he decides not to hurt the baby. But he can’t let go of this violent urge and decides to go to a distant town on a pretended business trip and get a room in a hotel and call an escort service for a prostitute to kill. When the call girl arrives, hired to do a bondage sex act, the sicko has already rehearsed how to cut her into pieces with his knife and chop her up with a hacksaw and then dispose of her bound body.
The prostitute he ordered can’t make it, so another is sent. She’s a friendly young blond woman named Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), who thrives on bondage sex. When she senses something is wrong with her customer, she runs into the bathroom and locks the door. Reed breaks down the door and finds her stabbing herself in the thigh with a scissor.
By the third act we’re into a switch and bait scenario, and with a few twists that might lead us to believe this nasty pic has something sweet up its sleeve.
I found the S&M narrative sleazy and demented. How such fine actors like Reed and Wasikowska pull it off depends on whether or not you think it’s possible that such a gruesome film has any redeeming features.
I realize that in the real world angry men do kill prostitutes and that there’s something pathological about their thinking that needs to be explored. But I didn’t learn much about such misogynists from a film that lacks credible drama even if provocative.
REVIEWED ON 2/17/2020 GRADE: C