The Lure

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Michalina Olszanska in The Lure - two mermaid sisters, who end up performing at a nightclub, face cruel and bloody choices when one of them falls in love with a beautiful young man.
"At the midway point, the screenplay begins to flap about all over the place but Smoczynska's firm, high-energy directing - including an extras-laden shopping centre extravaganza - doesn't stop to let you consider them for too long."

The myth of the mermaid is given plenty of bite in the feature debut by Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska, as she offers up this exuberantly punky tale of two tails belonging to sisters Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska), which, like the mermaids at its heart, is a slippery hybrid - part horror/part burlesque musical.

Throwing in the traditions of the Greek sirens for good measure, Smoczynska's film - based on a screenplay by Hardkor Disco co-writer Robert Bolesto - takes place against the incongruous setting of a cabaret-restaurant-strip-joint, inspired by similar establishments that were popular in Communist-controlled 80s Poland. It is, in fact, not a human but one of the sisters who is first held in thrall, as Silver falls for the song of bass-playing Mietek (Jakub Gierszal) and decides to set aside her literal man-eating tendencies in a bid to find romance.

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Ditching their original plans to swim to America, Golden agrees to join her sister in the unexpected stop-off in Warsaw and the pair - who transform into leggy beauties when out of water - get themselves hired by the owner (Zygmunt Malanowicz) of the club where Mietek and his oddball family work and are soon belting out musical numbers while topless, using their tails as a party trick. The life of smitten Silver soon begins to take on a distinctly tragic Hans Christian Andersen turn, while Golden just can't wait to get her teeth into her next man-sized meal, leading to tensions that are further exacerbated when Golden realises just how risky Silver's romantic desires have become. The tension between the would-be tamed Silver and wild-at-heart Golden is at its best in the early scenes and it's a shame that this opposing forces are brushed increasingly into the background as the set pieces mount.

The human characters are thinly drawn and at the midway point, the screenplay begins to flap about all over the place but Smoczynska's firm, high-energy directing - including grandstanding nightclub musical numbers and an extras-laden shopping centre extravaganza - doesn't stop to let you consider the film's drawbacks for too long. Gierszal never really manages to register beyond hot-looking milquetoast but Mazurek and Olszanska offer plenty of spark as the flipsides of mermaidhood, with Olszanska's mesmerisingly dangerous turn as the predatory Golden always generating unease even when the surrounding goings on are too kitsch to support unbridled horror. The end result may offer more surface than depth but it is likely to shimmer attractively for fans of cult cinema nonetheless.

Reviewed on: 31 Mar 2016
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A pair of mermaid sisters run into trouble when one of them falls for a human.

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska

Writer: Robert Bolesto

Starring: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Jakub Gierszal, Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, Zygmunt Malanowicz

Year: 2016

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Poland


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