The Purifiers

The Purifiers


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

There's nothing like a good bit of girl on girl kung-fu. Equal turns sexy and brutal, without being erotic. Drawing on a skilled local crew, Richard Jobson directs The Purifiers as a slick and cartoony pseudo remake (read : cheerful ripoff) of The Warriors, with a little of Bruce Lee's Game Of Death in structure.

An unnamed futuristic dystopian city (Glasgow's Science Museum by any other name) has been divided into zones of control, each with their gangs running off problems and miscreants. The Purifiers is the name given to a gang of Tae-Kwon-Do experts who act as vigilantes, combating crime. Each city zone is connected by an infrastructure and one faction wants to assume power by uniting the gangs into one force, to rule them all. The leader of this faction is called Moses (overplayed by Kevin McKidd - chillingly minimalist in Jobson's debut 16 Years Of Alcohol), who declares war on The Purifiers, when they reject his gleefully fascist overtones - the Big Brother logo is cheerfully abused and with the hundreds of CCTV monitors, it's easy for us to see the parallel. And so, gang war erupts, blood is spilled and trust destroyed, through separation and eventual betrayal.

Copy picture

The design of the film is straightforward and yet cleverly skewed. Jobson's director of photography, John Rhodes, knows how to shoot for storytelling and action in the same breath. His visual schemes remind me of early Tak Fujimoto, with striking colour choices - electric blue, film blown and digitally bleached out for moments set in the past - memorable shots and unsubtle, but clever, cinematographic tricks. It is probably worth note that digital grading has as much to do with this as any other tool, and has become a worthy assistant to a DP.

The film has unmemorable guitar and rock music as backdrop for action. The sound mixing is as delicate as a brick, buildup of bass and sudden silence is horribly overused for dramatic purposes, diluting it's impact. While, on the other hand, comic overuse of swishes and cracks for violent fighting works well in terms of parody and playfulness.

The Purifiers is equally overwritten and underwritten, almost to the point of parody. Jobson's self-quilled script opens and closes with an oh-so-serious soliloquy, read against a montage of the solar system, along with a CGI whizz-bang ride across the planets. It describes the moon as a bullet, beautiful and violent. I read it as a metaphor for the inevitability of gang war, as unvarying as the orbits of the planets. Although it's pretty damn loose, don't you think?

The Purifiers themselves are an undistinguished lot, with little to separate them, aside from Gordon Alexander, the hero of the piece (and fight choreographer) and Dominic Monaghan, amid mild murmers of "What's a Hobbit doing here?". The characters have been underwritten to a near cypherous degree, and underplayed. What they are good at, however, is kicking some ass. Alas, Jobson's direction lacks the grace that served his debut, and the action scenes, while accomplished in their trickery, greatly lack dramatic tension.

I'm waiting for Jobson to break free from his low-budget rut and show me something truly memorable. In The Purifiers, it's as though Jobson is plainly going for cheeseball as false-art.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2004
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Director: Richard Jobson

Writer: Richard Jobson

Starring: Kevin McKidd, Gordon Alexander, Dominic Monaghan, Amber Sainsbury, Rachel Grant, Jamie Chu, Robin Kerr, Fraser James

Year: 2004

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2004

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