What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie is absolutely not for kids. It's determinedly violent and disturbing. Characters include gangsters, drug dealers, junkies, an abusive stepfather, a prostitute and pimp, and a couple who kidnap children to film in pornographic situations: all are explicitly indicated, if not shown on screen; one scene has characters in a strip bar, where a dancer appears in a brief full frontal nudity shot. Murders and abuses are committed with a variety of weapons, including guns, knives, and hockey pucks; characters appear in various states of undress; language is excessive (over 300 uses of "f--k").
What's the story?
When a drug deal goes wrong and some cops are shot and killed, low-level mafia gangster Joey (Paul Walker) is ordered by his boss to get rid of the gun. Unfortunately, Joey's neighbor's needy son Oleg (Cameron Bright) finds the gun and shoots his abusive stepfather Anzor (Karel Roden). When Anzor lives, his relatives -- Russian mobsters -- decide to kill whoever is responsible, as soon as they can determine his identity. This chase comprises the bulk of the film's action, as Joey tries to get the gun back from Oleg and all sorts of bad guys try to kill Joey and the kid. When Joey's wife Teresa tracks down the missing Oleg, she finds he's been kidnapped into a kiddie porn-making household run by Dez (Bruce Altman) and Edele (Elizabeth Mitchell). Here Teresa stumbles into her own version of the stalker flick, where she's the Last Girl, forced to take up the vengeful violence that she's lamented in her husband, only hers is almost excessively motivated.
Is it any good?
As this bleak film thematizes accident and regret, it maintains an effective aesthetic remove. Oleg's emotional blankness, Anzor's cartoonish excess, even Joey's frantic work to keep all the facts and fictions contained -- all are reduced to fast cuts and zappy pans. It looks cool, sometimes disquieting (too close up), but it's not precisely probing. It gives good surface.
Though Joey seems endlessly able to take the next step in his pursuit of the gun, the gangsters he's up against are so broadly caricatured that it's not long before they're more tiresome than nervous-making. As much as it becomes his plot, Joey's pain -- he's bashed with hockey pucks near film's end -- also aligns him with the women and kids, that is, not only Teresa and Oleg, but also his own son Nicky (Alex Neuberger), and Anzor's fragile immigrant/addict wife Mila (Ivana Milicevic), who once imagined "America" held promise of freedom and riches.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the extreme violence here -- is it necessary? Is it here to make a point, or just to shock? They can also talk about the film's stereotyping of gangsters, bad cops, prostitutes, pimps: Though the movie exaggerates for sensational effect, how might stereotypes reinforce viewer prejudices and narrow-mindedness?