Monday, March 4, 2013

Film Review: Austin Chick's Girls Against Boys

One one thinks of rape and revenge films, one's mind goes back to, or at least should go back to, the 1970's and 1980's, and seminal films such as I Spit on Your Grave, Lipstick and Ms. 45, as well as variation on a theme installment, The Last House on the Left, or the Swedish film that so influenced Tarantino's Kill Bill, Thriller - A Cruel Picture, ie. They Call Her One Eye.  One could even go all the way back to Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, arguably the first in the genre.  Whichever way one wishes to go, they will see a brutal, vicious film, where a woman raped (or, in some cases, the parents of the woman raped) will seek out her revenge on those who caused her such brutality, and hand out even more brutality upon them.  One finds oneself cheering for these women.  It is vigilante justice at its best - an eye for an eye, and all that.  What one gets with the latest entry in the genre, Girls Against Boys, is a cheaply made - and, unlike many other small budget films, it shows - film full of ridiculous plot holes and even more ridiculous character developments and narrative choices.  One need only look at the theatrical poster, and then watch the film, to realized what is being sold here, is not what is being advertized.

Girls Against Boys, is about a twenty-something bartender who is raped by a man she meets at a nightclub, and who ends up teaming up with her friend to seek him out and kill him.  What ensues is a weekend of murder, mayhem and, as is the case in many exploitationesque films, lots of lesbian undertones.  The fact that these two women (girl-next-door Danielle Panabaker as our intrepid victim out for payback, and sultry Nicole LaLiberte as the quite twisted, but quite helpful friend) end up cutting down men that, granted may be douche-bags of the most royal kind, but have nothing whatsoever to do with the rape, or any rape as far as we know, makes them less a scorned woman out for revenge with her kick-ass friend, and more a two-girl hit squad, who are no better than the men they have killed.  Sure, as misogynistic as cinema is - especially in the more horror/thriller based properties - I, as a male of the species, should probably not worry too much when cinematic women go on a killing spree, justified or not, for it goes the other way much more often than not (and here too, these women are sexualized more than they need to be), but it does make for a rather mangled piece of moral ambiguity - all written and directed by another male of the species, Austin Chick.

Chick takes the rape and revenge model, an already controversial one, and warps it into his own obsessive male adolescent fantasy, where women are victims of their own sexuality, and who have no recourse but to blindly destroy everything around them, before succumbing to their own latent sexual desires in the end.  Sure, both Ms. 45 and I Spit on Your Grave were directed by men, but the brutality in those films seems justified, considering what was done to the women in the films, and even when they cross a line, it too seems justified.  Here, not so much.  Here it just seems like a cheap cop-out in the narrative (the brutality here is rather low on the scofield scale of such things) or just more fodder for the sexualization of the revenge.  Yes, there of course does have to be brutality against women in such a genre, for one cannot have the revenge part with the rape, but in all the films I mentioned earlier, as well as more modern renditions like The Brave One with Jodie Foster and, in a more comedic vein, Mitchell Lichtenstein's darkly hilarious Teeth, this brutality, against the women and the caddish bastard men, is narratively necessary.  Here, again, not so much.

Still though, moral ambiguity has never been one to bother this critic - some of my favourite films fly in the face of morality - so such a thing really doesn't bother me on any level other than it's just lazy storytelling.  Then again, the fact that these women are killing people just because they happened to know the rapist, or because they left the one girl to go back to their wife (watch Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank to see how that should be handled), is not even the laziest thing in here.  Why oh why, after a weekend that includes five murders, does everything go back to relative normalcy?  Is there no investigation here?  No clues leading back to these women?  Even when the murder of a cop is involved in the festivities?  Really, nothing at all?  Okay, whatever.  I guess these women are suddenly professional hit men, and know full well how to get rid of all bodies and all evidence.  Okay, let's go with that.  Even letting such lazy storytelling slide, we are still handed the most obvious of cliché in the inevitable last act of the story.  All-in-all, we are left with a sour taste in our mouths, not necessarily for the aforementioned moral ambiguity (remember, I kinda like that aspect, at least when it is done properly), but for the cheapness of the entire production.  I suppose now I should go and re-watch I Spit on Your Grave, in order to - and this will probably sound quite weird - cleanse my palette of this junkheap of a movie.

1 comment:

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