Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Secuestro Express (2005)

This film is unwatchable. When I say that, I don't mean that it's a bad film (though it certainly is that). I mean that the visual quality of the filmmaking is such that the act of looking at the film hurts the eyes. This may be the most ineptly directed film I've seen since 2001's Inbred Rednecks, and at least that film didn't look like it was trying to be good. The story in front of the camera is pretty terrible as well. It involves a kidnapping/hijacking in Venenzuela, which is all well and good, except that this film doesn't do anything that I haven't already seen in a number of '70s grindhouse features. The main difference between this and something like, say, Hitch-Hike is that the latter is a lurid thriller into which thematic worth gradually creeps, intentionally or not, while Secuestro Express lays all its social-commentary cards out right at the beginning. The film's setup is explicitly classist, and the opening scenes promise some subversion of the class roles that never comes. Everyone stays rigidly wedded to the character traits that the opening captions give them, and the film's aspirations at social commentary in the face of its cardboard characters is kind of laughable. Moreover, the attempts at adding meaning to this trashy story sap the brute power of the situation. The film tries so hard to shock its audience, but the real deal never sweated the shock -- the shock just happened. It's fairly embarrassing, then, to note that writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz cared enough to try and invest his narrative with meaning but not enough to frame his fucking shots correctly. The handheld DV cinematography is ugly enough (the whole film looks like it was filmed through a dirty windshield), but Jakubowicz further sabotages matters by unerringly making sure that nobody is ever properly photographed. (There's more half-faces and closeups of eyeballs here than a month's worth of pan-and-scan HBO.) What's more, he can't even keep the goddamn camera in focus much of the time. He tries fancy camera moves and editing tricks to make his film look more professional, but all that comes out of it is a vague feeling that he's ripping off City of God. For God's sake, people shouldn't attempt a split-screen montage until they've figured out how to conform to the basic grammar of cinema. I watched The Candy Snatchers on a second-generation video bootleg, and it still looked better than this. There's an idea: If you ever get the urge to watch this, pick up The Candy Snatchers instead. Subversive Cinema just put out a DVD of it, so you don't have to go through certain channels anymore.

Grade: F


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I played Joe Bob in Inbred Rednecks, saw your comment and thought I'd say if you can do better, write a script and I'll be in your movie eh? ;-)
-Joe Bob

11:01 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Leave your schedule open, Mr. Hooper, and I'll let you know when I finish a screenplay. It may be a while, but gol darnnit, I won't forget you. Just make sure you're ready.

9:08 AM  

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