FANTASIA 2016 REVIEW – LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR

There’s absolutely no point beating around the bush with this one so I’m just going to dive in and tell it like it is: Corey Asraf and John Swab’s directorial debut, LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR is the most crucial and most individualistic revenge thriller in years. The film, which follows two adopted siblings/lovers Drew (Nicotera) and June (Quartin) as they carry out their destructive plan to wreak revenge on the town they grew up in and “take care” of their abusive father, is told from Drew’s perspective in the form of cleverly constructed flashbacks as he relates the chain of events leading up to his current whereabouts: handcuffed to a police interrogation table.

Nocotera

Considering it’s a debut feature, John Swab is one hell of a dab hand when it comes to writing captivating dialog. Despite plenty of foul-mouthing, Swab’s wordplay is so, so rich, and even though it does come across as a little bit hyperbolic at first seeing drug dealers speaking in metaphors, it’s strangely beguiling and I found myself paying absolute attention so as not to miss a single word. When I recently spoke to Swab and Asraf, they explained how many of the characters we see on screen were actually based on people they had met during their lives, and a lot of the philosophical discourse really feels like it was painstakingly thought out and came from a really personal place. Given a certain amount of intentional vagueness throughout the film – used as a plotting and pacing device – and the superlatively stoic script, unlike most revenge flicks, I guarantee this one will lead you down a rabbit hole of perpetual self-questioning.

The committed cast does the script perfect justice too: Nicotera and Quartin share some sublime chemistry, and whilst the two seem to have come to terms with the idea that their plan most likely won’t end well for them, when local drug dealer, Hondo, puts a young girl he’s kidnapped under June’s care for reasons unknown, stakes are raised substantially.

Marilyn Manson

And then Manson’s portrayal of contract killer Pope is so unpredictable it’s creepy. He gives such a restrained and cold performance that it’s nigh impossible to know what his next move will be, creating seething, torrid tension whenever he shows up. For me though, it’s Mark Boone Junior who had the toughest role to pull off as Larry Glass, the avenging couple’s abusive father. He smoothly juggles playing this despicable character with many a menacing sin in his closet, whilst revealing a tormented and frightened side to him, especially when he heads out into the woods to meet Pope to request his help in putting a stop to his adopted son’s game plan. I’d kick myself if I didn’t also make mention of the comic relief provided by a spaced-out and grandiose Daniel Martin Berkey as Uncle Marvin.

Whilst the film unflinchingly navigates virtually every taboo in the book, it’s never shoved in your face, and that’s one of the wisest moves Asraf and Swab could have made. Pretty much all the violence takes place off-camera and audiences are only really treated to the aftermath of whatever just went on. I say it’s a wise move because it just isn’t necessary as the film is that much more interested in the whys rather than the hows.

On the technical side of things, Gingger Shankar’s score works on Tarantino levels. Combining Afro-soul songs with a more sinister soundtrack really mixes everything up and provides an additional element of surprise, keeping the audience on their toes throughout. And cinematographer Jeff Melanson’s gritty, oftentimes fly-on-the-wall aesthetic really helps accentuate the authenticity of the performances and the backdrop.

This bold yet shrewdly restrained question-raiser of a film is revenge noir at its best and just mustn’t me missed. Both Asraf and Swab already have other projects in mind, and going by what I just saw here, the future looks promising for the both of them, and their audiences too, of course.

Chucky definitely wants to play!

chucky5

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Let Me Make You a Martyr

FANTASIA 2016 REVIEW – LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR

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