Chained DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

Chained DVD

Starring Vincent D’Onofrio, Julia Ormond, Eamon Farren, Gina Phillips, Evan Bird and Jake Weber

Written by Damian O’Donnell and Jennifer Lynch

Directed by Jennifer Lynch

After her trials and tribulations in India directing the film Hisss, documented in the excellent feature documentary Despite the Gods, with her next effort Jennifer Lynch wanted to get back to the friendly confines of small indie horror that spawned her, the result is Chained. Armed with a script she adapted herself and a stellar lead actor in D’Onofrio, Lynch set out to once again carve out her unique vision with the level of creative control only an indie film can provide, although it should be mentioned that the title was changed from Rabbit to Chained.

Coming home from a routine trip to the movies, eight-year-old Tim (Bird) and his mother, Sarah (Ormond), are picked up by a psychopathic cab driver named Bob (D’Onofrio). Bob murders the young boy’s mother and keeps Tim as his unwilling protegee, making him clean up the mess following each murder he commits. After a couple of aborted escape attempts, Bob chains Tim, now renamed Rabbit, to the inside of the house allowing just enough length to move freely within. As the years pass, Bob starts instructing Rabbit, teaching him anatomy and human behavior. Now a teenager, Rabbit (Farren) is slowly being pressed by Bob to start his own homicidal spree. Slowly but surely, he must eventually choose whether to follow in Bob’s serial killer footsteps or make one final, desperate attempt to break free from his long captivity.

D’Onofrio’s Bob is a menacing, grimy and remorseless beast of a man with no redeeming characteristics at all. Through flashback sequences we see the violence and degradation he went through that led him to become the man he is today. Lynch’s script pulls no punches in showing us exactly what Bob is capable of as we are taken right into his “killing room” and shown exactly what becomes of the girls he brings home. D’Onofrio’s performance is unflinching and fascinating to watch, he truly is one of the finest actors we have working today. Sadly the film is basically a two man piece, and our other lead Farren is way out of his league here. Left to sullen blank stares and random fits of screaming and moaning, one in particular is pretty laughable, Farren isn’t awful here, he’s just vastly overshadowed and the film suffers because of it. The story is passable here, though there are plot holes and an ending that is completely unearned and quite frankly terrible. The twist we are presented with is not only implausible but it’s also so bad that even M.Night Shyamalan at his absolute worst could do better in his sleep. That said, Lynch shows strength behind the camera as her lens is unforgiving, exploring every inch of the excellent set and setting, and the film has a great feel and pacing to it. Clearly Lynch is evolving into a solid, style based director, but it’s just too bad the script was her downfall on this one.

The disc itself is practically bereft of special features as we get an alternate cut of one of the death scenes and a trailer for the film. The saving grace here is the audio commentary with Lynch and D’Onofrio. Lynch is her usual self-deprecating, open book that she is known for and a charming D’Onofrio provides a great play-by-play as the two show they have a natural chemistry moving the commentary along.

Despite the great performance from D’Onofrio, Chained doesn’t quite satisfy due to a weaker second lead and an ending that ruins any goodwill the film had before. Sadly I cannot recommend a purchase of Chained, but if you can get a cheap rental or attach it to your Netflix cue, you could do far worse. Chained is a mild non-recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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HOT DOCS 2012 – Despite the Gods Review (Kirk Haviland)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)

Despite the Gods

Starring Jennifer Lynch and Sydney Lynch

Directed by Penny Vozniak

Tickets are still available for May 5th, 9:30pm: CLICK HERE

Despite the Gods is the story of the filming of a overambitious Bollywood/Hollywood production Hisss, a fantasy, horror, romance, dramatic story of a female man-eating snake goddess. Jennifer Lynch, straight off her return to directing Surveillance after a 15 year absence, is tapped to direct. She packs up and moves to India with her then 12 year old daughter Sydney in order to start the production and soon realizes she has been dropped head first into another world. Jennifer proclaims India to be the noisiest place on earth, there is background noise from crowds, construction and random other places, so much so that Jennifer literally starts “conducting” the noise around her to illustrate her frustration. And this is merely during pre-production. Jennifer starts to worry if this, her 3rd film, will be doomed as her father David Lynch’s 3rd film was, the now infamous production of Dune.

Production begins and as feared everything goes awry. The production uses the most basic of elements: handmade wooden rigs, unprofessional lighting, an assistant director and cast who barely speak English providing an instant barrier between them and Lynch.  All of these issues are trivial compared to the issues between Jennifer and her producer Govind Menon. Menon is a constant presence on the set, fighting with Lynch and constantly trying to take over the production. And unfortunately most of his tirades are targeted at Sydney, who is also constantly on set and as 12 year old’s are apt to do, seems to get in Govind’s way and on his last nerve. By the end of it Lynch spends 8 months in India shooting a film Govind takes away from her in the editing room anyway.

Lynch comes off very likeable in this film. Her mounting frustration with the Indian film process that produces “too many cooks in the kitchen” eventually makes her throw up her hands and focus only on the acting performances. Unfortunately the final product that is Hisss may not even contain the same takes she fights so hard for during the filming. Lynch herself has never watched the film and still claims it as her biggest failure in the business. Her original cut of the film was destroyed and there are no more copies so it seems assured we will never see it screened, which is a shame. The true stars of Despite the Gods are Govind and Sydney. Govind’s manic attitude and paranoia permeate the production. As the film’s villain he’s well cast.  Sydney’s charm and bright smile make her instantly endearing and you empathize with her almost immediately.

As a piece of entertainment and as a warning for young filmmakers, Despite the Gods works on both fronts. A truly fascinating film from director Vozniak.

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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