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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Waz

The Thin White Dude’s Reviews – Waz
Once or twice every year, there is a film which receives a degree of critical acclaim, sounds rather interesting and original in terms of it's concept, yet no matter what happens, the film remains under the radar, and seemingly vanishes into thin air. Waz is one of those films. I remember first being intrigued by the film after reading about it in an issue of Total Film. Despite being advertised under the moniker of "Is This The Most Violent Movie Ever Made," I was intrigued nonetheless by the fact that such an internationally respected actor as Stellan Skarsard had signed up to what looked to be another one of those "gornos" which are more or less what horror has equated to over the past decade since 28 Days Later. Anyway, with the way that the film was being marketed, I bought the film expecting what would be an above-par, average gore-fest. What I had in my hands however, was completely different to what I had expected. Anyway, plot-wise, bodies start popping up, each of them being linked by the fact that they had the mathematical equation "W delta Z" scratched into them. Now, as far as I am concerned, that is all I want to give away plot-wise. With regards to it being advertised as a "gorno," I am rather displeased at this labelling after having seen it. Waz is something which we have got on our hands which very rare, a modern, neo-noir thriller which has been updated for a modern and contemporary audience. Personally, I think that it does this brilliantly. The plot and script which unveils it is the best thing that it has going for itself. This is a labyrinthine detective/mystery thriller, which has more in common with Silence Of The Lambs and Seven rather than Hostel or Saw. The plot is very intricately structured so we, like the detectives, are only unveiled the mystery piece by piece, for it to form a way more elaborate plot than we had expected. Oh, and also, to give the film a little bit of extra spice, it truly does have a twist in the tail which you will not expect. I dare anyone to predict the film's outcome. Also, it is not so unpredictable that it gets lost in the mass of its own intelligence. The film-makers seem to take into account the audience, and it is an ending which will certainly satisfy the viewer rather than disappoint. The film remains consistent throughout with the pacing and gritty urban style that first-time director Tom Shankland and his director of photography Morten Soborg implement in the film. Also, Stellan Skarsgard gives a very naturalistic performance as your stereotypical hard-boiled detective Eddie Argo, in a role reminiscent of Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. It is a very minimalist performance, unlike that of Hackman's afformented role, in which Skarsgard lets his actions do the talking for him, little things like his even prominent chain-smoking as a kind of underlying hint of a man who is as shrouded in mystery as the film itself. This role, which is minimalist and suggests something beneath the surface runs parallel to that of the plot, making for an interesting overall film. Once again, I have to come to the part I hate the most, especially with a film as good as this one is. Like I mentioned, it is being marketed and therefore tarred with the same brush as films such as Saw and Hostel. This film is far better than these films could ever hope to be, but there are a number of things which reduce it to the same kind of B-movie level that it is clearly trying to escape. For example, the performances by Melissa George, Selma Blair and Ashley Walters are very reminiscent of some old, dodgy B-movies. They are character archetypes and stereotypes, and while the plot may be labyrinthine, these are still cardboard cut-out characters with cardboard cut-ut performances, with only Skarsgard escaping the B-movie brush. Also, the film, unlike it's counter-parts such as Seven, in which it's twist continues to resonate throughout the film, fails to exploit its wise twist, instead dragging it out too long. Therefore with the film being dragged out five to ten minutes too long, the twist does, nonetheless lose its powerful impact. Personally, the best film of this type is Seven, for after the twist comes, the film's ending is rushed, so that when the credits roll, then the abruptness and shock of the twist culminate together in a knockout one-two combination. If the movie is cut-off, it has more pressure, whereas unfortunately with Waz, you do feel slightly more relaxed by the end of the film. Despite these criticisms, Waz is a film which in my opinion is very worthy and deserving of great praise. It is a great, powerful example of the detective thriller and has enough "OOMPH" in it's punches to resonate well enough in audiences. Also, the script, director and director of photography all cater towards the story, showing us that truly in this movie, plot comes first. This is none the more apparent in Skarsgard's performance. In a movie/role that he could have made a very showy, flamboyant performance, which he could also have done well, he instead sticks with the minimalist approach, which is necessary for this film, and even gives what would be bog-standard B-movie fare a little taste of arthouse. It is a unique film which while being no masterpiece, is a wise composite at times of all the good elements from the genre and while not being original enough to stand alone, is certainly a great movie which gives the genre something fresh to play around with.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.4/10

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