Bruce is an ordinary repairman tormented by a crippling sense of responsibility for his disabled wife Samantha, an ex-policewoman, the survivor of a gang-related assault. Bruce’s increasing hyper-sensitivity to the injustice suffered by his wife steer him down a dark path of vigilantism, and with his rapidly disintegrating mental health, paranoia and overwhelming sense of doom, Bruce channels his inner rage towards a young woman, Marie and finds refuge in a world of extreme violence.
Feeling over-satiated by the constant barrage of MOR action-oriented revenge flicks of late? I certainly was but then I stumbled upon The Demolisher, a stylish stunner from Canadian director Gabriel Carrer that strips the desire for revenge right down to the bare bones and provides the genre with the emergency “fresh” blood transfusion it needed.
This stylish hypnagogic revenge horror/thriller teases out a refreshingly captivating story as it flings the audience head first into the mindset of Bruce/The Demolisher (Ry Barrett). Carrer defies the laws of revenge movies by refraining from showing the light at the entrance to this deep dark tunnel and resultantly it’s up to the audience to decide exactly whose corner they are in. At its core, the film is a dissection of a tormented person’s self-discovery as his vengeful compulsions get out of hand and he starts targeting innocent bystanders. Despite him clearly losing one marble at a time you can’t help but become emotionally invested in his character given his plight.
Three characters carry the film on their shoulders, each particularly well conceived. First up is Bruce who sets his sights on one particular innocent girl, Marie (Jessica Vano) who just so happens to be going through her own trying times which makes the story all the more compelling. Also, the fact that Bruce’s wife Samantha, played by Tianna Nori, is a law enforcer herself, recently banished to a wheelchair after a gang-related attack, adds buckets of coal to the whole “taking the law into your own hands” debate.
Whilst reinventing the revenge thriller wheel the film is by no means devoid of gruesome acts of violence. The audience are treated to some eye-opening set pieces of banzai-violence which give the film an additional visceral punch. Nonetheless, the upfront savagery is kept shrewdly spasmodic so as not to distract the audience from the film’s emotional substance and prominent lead performances.
Silence is certainly a virtue for the most part of the film but The Demolisher remains a showcase for exceptional acting. Carrer directs the leads towards performances that we rarely get to see nowadays and it’s clear he allowed the actors to breathe and burgeon on set. Bruce’s rage rarely manifests itself in words as Barrett renders most of his anger through particularly shrewd use of facial expressions and body language. The scenes he shares with his wife are mostly silent exchanges but what the two of them are going through and what’s going through their minds is glaringly apparent for the audience at all times – never an easy feat for an actor to pull off.
It’s Jessica Vano’s Marie who has the most dialogue and she delivers her lines with gusto and really embraces the ins and outs of her character. Although at a particularly fragile time in her life her desire to fight still lingers inside and she takes the bull by the horns when it comes to the crunch. Vano manages to balance her fragility and gutsiness perfectly and this young actress is going places for sure.
The visual kicks the film basks in is the fourth protagonist with a style kindred to the likes of Park Chan Wook or Nicolas Winding Refn. Carrer’s cut-and-dried kitchen-sink approach will leave you agog and proves in leaps and bounds just how much substance a director’s style and attitude can add to the final cut. Lest we forget Glen Nicholl’s eclectic score, the perfect revenge rhapsody that works on every level to innervate Carrer’s ambitious visuals.
A minor gripe was Bruce’s sniffer dog sense during certain chase scenes. There are times where Marie manages to lose her tail but Bruce seems to have some kind of sixth sense and always manages to remarkably sniff her out. Thankfully, when this implausibility creeps into the frame the audience is so invested in the story and the characters by then that it never puts the film’s authenticity in jeopardy.
In a nutshell, Carrer’s mouth-watering directorial approach provides an absolutely sumptuous yet intensely agonising elegy of the underlying psychosocial impact of traumatic, life-changing events. Not only that, but The Demolisher provides one hell of an unexpected denouement, bringing even more deliberations to the table. Most revenge flicks have a penchant for all things gritty, action-packed and violent and whilst The Demolisher has plenty of all of the above, those looking for a more contemplative revenge ride have got one hell of a film to look forward to.
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)