Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'Vendetta' (2013) directed by Stephen Reynolds

Vendetta is a deranged, racist piece of shit with the morals of Richard Littlejohn and the collective intelligence of an EDL march.  This is a film so vicious, sadistic and unabashedly racist that it beggars belief - it's essentially the cinematic adaptation of the manifesto of Anders Breivik.  Ordinarily, when faced with your standard revenge fantasy you can console yourself by assuming that far-right politics are a natural consequence of the subject matter.  But Vendetta is a film that has something to say about Britain, something so bizarre that it's going to sound like I'm making it up - without one word of a lie - Vendetta sincerely argues that life in Britain would be improved by maniacs torturing and murdering people. 

That sounds like satire right?  It's not.  Here's how it goes down: Danny Dyer is Jimmy Vickers, a special forces soldier who is returning from a tour of service in Afghanistan.  He's been locked up for torturing to death an Afghan prisoner, a fact that gets the ladies in the film all wet and confers a grudging respect from every man he meets. But things are not good in London tahhhhhn.  His Dad witnesses a robbery, intervenes and proceeds to beat a teenager to death with a bat.  Later the gang breaks into his parent's house, tortures his Dad, rapes his Mum and then burns them both alive. Danny Dyer isn't happy.  Putting paid to the notion that two wrongs don't make a right he proceeds to torture and murder a bunch of teenagers while running from the police and reconciling with his ex wife.  

The only remotely positive thing about Vendetta is that it there are moments where it regurgitates far-right ideology so sincerely that the film briefly devolves into parody. Titters fill the cinema as Dyer mumbles "There was a time when I would have bled to keep the red in the Union Jack.".  You wrinkle your brow in bemusement when, standing over an unfortunate victim, Dyer gravely intones "Sorry? Sorry is a castaway word on the breath of the hopeful.." eh? You smile with astonished disbelief at the tin-eared dribbling lunacy of dialogue about walking tall and standing up for your own honour by... torturing teenagers.  Say whaaaat?

But, by and large the film is so goddamn banal that you can't even enjoy it as a piece of exploitation.  If the film kept a tight focus on Danny Dyer torturing people to death in increasingly creative ways then perhaps it could have succeeded as 'just' being tasteless.  No such luck.  Vendetta is eager to have its say about the state of modern Britain - painting a insane picture of a chaotic wasteland populated by irredeemable criminal gangs and uselessly effete, bureaucratic police officers. 

Writer/director Stephen Reynold's solution to this problem is fascism.  That sounds blunt, but blunt is right for a film has neither the time nor the smarts for subtlety.  Cringeworthy military fetishism isn't exactly surprising in action cinema, yet Vendetta takes it to a horrifying logical conclusion.  Jimmy Vicker's backstory is that he tortured an Afghan prisoner to death - an all too realistic plotline considering the recent trial of a Royal Marine for sadistically murdering a wounded man.  What's astonishing about Vendetta is that it goes to some lengths in dialogue to reassure the audience that being willing to torture and execute are what makes Vickers "a hero".

As Vickers ties people up, burns them alive, pours concrete down their throats and rips them in two it gets a bit difficult to sympathise with him.  Compounding the nauseating politics of the film is that this is largely about a white soldier torturing and murdering black teenagers - though I suppose if you're going to be so transparently fascist you may as well go the full hog.  There's some very telling use of language where, to excuse Vicker's war crimes, a Colonel explains that "those people are different from us, they don't fear death".  Later we get a snatch of dialogue explaining that "these people don't deserve justice".  It's telling that in order to justify the atrocities meted out by its protagonist, Vendetta needs to define the victims as another 'type' of person; a intrinsically and irredeemably violent degenerate; a subhuman fully deserving of pain and death.

There's lip service paid to the idea that maybe stopping crime by allowing maniacs to torture kids to death isn't actually such a great idea - though this is voiced by a ridiculous caricature softy detective who winds up humiliated and knocked-out.  What we walk away with is the suggestion that with the police unable to beat confessions out of suspects and the streets of London awash with crime ("this country’s changed, the riots were just the start of it")- the moral thing to do is sit back and let what amounts to a serial killer murder with impunity. I can't deny it's a bold philosophy. Really stupid obviously. But bold - certainly.  

I like to moob it moob it.  I like to moob moob it.  I like to.... moob it!
Leaving aside the scary politics for a moment, the film itself is objectively pretty crappy cinema.  Dyer  is stuck in neutral, perhaps convincing as a peevish cashier, but never remotely believable as a terrifying Special Forces expert.  At one point there's a tight close-up on Dyer's cute little moobs, a shot that's held so long and framed so carefully you suspect that the crew is having a giggle at the star's expense.  The rest of the film is passionless, formless cinematic sludge, constructed with as little effort as possible.  By way of illustration there's a moment where a mocked up newspaper appears in full shot - the prop was so bad that hushed giggles broke out in the cinema.  Screwing up something as simple as a newspaper is a sign that nobody is really giving a shit behind the camera.

So who is this film for?  Ordinarily I'd conclude that a cinematic rant arguing that Britain has gotten too soft, black kids are taking over the streets and soldiers need to rise up and wipe them out would be the territory of The Daily Mail and right-wing Middle England.  But it's not Mail readers that this is aimed at (the Mail is at least smart enough to veil its latent fascism behind the cloak of manners).  No, Vendetta is a film custom-designed to appeal to the English Defence League: realising on the silver screen their slavering, psychopathic race-war power fantasy.  

Fuuuuck that.  Fuuuuuuuuuck them.  Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck this film.

No stars.

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