Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Horseman. (2008) Steven Kastrissios

Not to be confused with Jonas Åkerlund's 2009 cheese offering Horseman, a Dennis Quaid film that I only remember from writing in my 2009 Film Journal. It was, "So awful I wanted to kick myself in the teeth."

Not that Kastrissios's The Horseman is all that much better.

What it lacks as a cheese plate it makes up for in muscle -- and torture, too, which everyone says is the new porn -- and loads of gore measured in tons of blood, and that same menacing myth I mentioned in my review of Harry Brown -- that a violent act can redeem a wrong.

I'm going to try to see less revenge movies, because they all seem to be saying the same thing, and so am I.

But Harry Brown is actually a good starting point for comparison. Both are revenge films. Why would I sit here like Roger Ebert (much as I love the man) and try to describe a plot in The Horseman? It's a revenge film. What more do we need to know? The only thing that saves it from being as horrible as Harry Brown is that The Horseman is at least about a dad avenging the murder of his daughter.

I've got a little girl. I can buy into that. If anyone wanted to hurt her there's little doubt I would want to hurt them back. But it wouldn't make it any more right, and if I were to put the brutality of The Horseman into practice it would rightfully land me behind bars -- something not shown in the film, and only hinted at.

Had writer/director Kastrissios actually chosen to show the killer in a cell at the end, it might have made the film easier to swallow. As it is, without a rendering of the consequences of vengeful actions, it's little better than simply enjoying, almost worshipping blood for blood's sake. So when you watch the torture scenes, you might as well get off, too. Because you've only got the joy of the image.

The thing that sticks out most is how unrealistic and vacuous the story itself is, glorifying another anti-hero as he completely goes ballistic on his enemy, and sometimes has the tables turned and becomes the victim of his torturous foe. It reminds me that it is harder to actually obey the law and trust in it for justice. Even harder is it to be the person Christ was seeking when he threw out things like, "Love your enemy."

It's easier to just lose it and uncap all that anger, to pound and slash, to attack and kill, to cover yourself in blood and drown in the entrails of your enemy. To seek redemption in torturing your enemy. Gosh, I didn't even think of the political ramifications -- but how brainless and bestial is that?

The film has bragging rights in that it was fully produced in Queensland, Australia. Most of the shoot was filmed in Brisbane. I've been to Brisbane four times, and I've met a lot of kind, good folk there. I never met anyone in Brisbane like the hopeless characters in The Horseman, but the film seems to suggest that only hopeless people live there. It would have been nice if there were even one decent figure in the film to hang your hat on. But there's not. The story gives us one young lady who acts as a stand-in for the killer's lost daughter, but she's just lost enough to make us not really care.

This is not the fault of the actress. She was fine in her performance, maybe even great. She was unfortunately trying to bring life to a one-dimensional celebration of violence. She simply couldn't save Kastrissios from himself and his own pen.

I hope in the future he considers the heart, and not just for stabbing it, either.

File under: The Myth of Redemptive Torture: A Bad Time for All.

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