A Proper Violence

A Proper Violence


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

If you like revenge thrillers with plenty of twists and turns but you're dubious about the moral messages in many of them, A Proper Violence is something you'll find refreshing. It's the first feature from writer/director team Chris Falusi and Matt Robinson, but one wouldn't guess it either from the quality of the work or from the maturity with which it handles its subject matter.

That different perspective is important here, because in many ways it's a familiar tale. A crime has been committed. The criminal, Morgan, has done his time, but not everybody thinks that's enough. We meet him first. He's dropped off at an empty flat. There's no food in the cupboards. He calls his mother but she won't speak to him. Strangers are wary of his attempts to be friendly - perhaps he seems too desperate, perhaps they know where he's been. Perhaps he's actually dangerous. It's hard to say, but it's also hard not to sympathise, especially given Randy Spence's affecting performance. This is important in preparing us emotionally for what comes next.

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Meet Lucy (Bev Lauchner). She's difficult, damaged, yelling at her husband and lover, even at the younger brother who has devoted himself to protecting her. Perhaps it's not surprising - he didn't tell her Morgan had got out. Importantly, though she might not immediately attract our sympathies, Lucy is a strong person. She's not the pathetic female victim we've seen before in the likes of Death Wish. It's easy to see that these men are bound to her by more than a sense of paternalistic obligation or desire; her force of personality holds their world together. So when they start to make plans without her, supposedly on her behalf, we know they're heading for trouble.

What follows looks formulaic enough. The men decide that they're going to befriend the lonely Morgan. It's easy to do, given his isolation. They take him out into the woods with them on a camping trip. A city boy, he's out of his element, but he's keen to fit in. Of course, what they plan to fit him into is a hole in the ground, but nothing quite goes as they'd intended.

There's plenty of dark humour to enjoy here, but for the most part the story and dialogue are naturalistic, avoiding the straight-out black farce of films like Cassandra's Dream. Morgan's tentative overtures of friendship and the conflicting emotions of the other men are explored in a way that never feels forced. Ultimately, it's the film's emotional shifts that really make it interesting. Where the similarly themed 44 Inch Chest tried and failed, this succeeds at asking questions about masculinity and men's expectations of their social roles which are genuinely compelling, in part because it doesn't provide any easy answers. It also does so in a way that doesn't distract from the essential tension inherent in the story.

There's still room for improvement here. Faulisi doesn't really explore much of the potential of his locations, and whilst all the performances are strong, our three would-be avengers are not well enough distinguished early on for us to get the full benefit of their changing perspectives - perhaps a case of the writers getting to know them too well to remember the viewers' distance. As these are problems that tend to go with inexperience, it will be fascinating to see what this team comes up with next.

Reviewed on: 07 Aug 2010
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Three men conspire to murder an ex-con, but nothing goes to plan.
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Director: Chris Faulisi, Matt Robinson

Writer: Matt Robinson, Chris Faulisi, Charlie Baker

Starring: Randy Spence, Justin Morck, Shawn Mahoney, Will Brunson, Bev Lauchner

Year: 2010

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US


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