Eye For Film >> Movies >> Skin (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: James Benefield
Films about neo-Nazis and skinheads lend themselves to powerful, show-stopping performances and have subsequently launched a couple of pretty impressive acting careers recently. Think perhaps of Edward Norton in American History X, Ryan Gosling in The Believer, or maybe even the burgeoning career of Thomas Turgoose, the little lad from This Is England. The guy's truly a star in the making.
Perhaps the same will happen with Robert Hoog in the central performance in this Dutch-language movie. It's 1979, and a pale faced teenager with a shock of red hair, Frankie (Hoog), falls in with the wrong crowd after family problems leave him uncertain and vulnerable. His mother is hospital-bound, his relationship with his father is strained and the only people who show him any interest are the skinheads, who lurk in the corners at school and in the local punk venue down town.
The film's power is found in its shades of grey and its tight focus on Frankie and his family. Director Hanro Smitsman chooses not to dwell and make heavy duty of the fact Frankie's father is a Jewish Holocaust survivor or that Frankie's best friend is black. These are parts of Frankie's contradictions, which also include never fully subscribing to the central racist aspects of his new acquaintances and never undergoing a Road to Damascus style conversion to repentance or socially acceptable morality.
It's a risky game which could potentially make the character unlikeable. However, Hoog's portrayal is naturalistic enough to help the film get away with it. And although Hoog has his louder moments, his performance is subtler, quieter and more removed than some of his contemporaries. Of course, the character is still impossible to sympathise with, but the key to us being engaged here is that we can empathise with how he got to be where he ends up, and that he also brings a different take on this kind of man.
In the final moments, the film threatens to derail and to cop out in a scene that will divide viewers. Up until this point, the movie proves an uncharacteristically quieter and murkier exploration of the mentality behind extremist madness. By eschewing the histrionics, and by focusing on the personal rather than the social, it certainly loses something. But Skin remains pretty accomplished stuff nevertheless, and its performance by Hoog is certain to make it memorable.Reviewed on: 28 Jul 2011