September 10, 2012

Movie Review: Branded (2012)

What can I say about Branded that hasn't already been said? Probably a lot. Considering I haven't heard or seen anyone discussing the film and I was the only person in the theater on a Saturday afternoon, I could probably say just about anything about it. Let me start simply by saying the movie is a mess. It may have a couple of interesting ideas buried within its frames, but you'll have to sift trough everything else to get to them.

Immediately upon exiting the theater, three letters came to mind. Those letters were W, T, and F. Seriously, this is one of the weirdest, messiest films I have seen in some time. It is nothing like what I was expecting based on the trailer I saw. This is also not one of those cases where the movie was better than what the trailer sold it on, I am not against a little misdirection, intentional or not, in the advertising, so long as the movie has something worth seeing. Branded is a movie that seems destined to gather some sort of cult audience around it, but probably not the reasons the filmmakers had in mind.

Branded seeks to warn us of the insidious and dangerous nature of advertising and how the brands have come to control the desires of the people. Well, no wonder it has such a small release, a wide release would require, uh, advertising and a brand to back it up. Anyway, the basic idea is not so bad and they did try to tell it in a unique fashion. The problem is that the story is underwritten in favor of the idea causing the whole exercise to crumble under its own weight. It is not a case of using imagery to carry us along in lieu of narrative cohesion, like a Lucio Fulci film, everything stutters along, pushed on its way by some lifeless, wordy dialogue that fails to make any actual impact.

The movie begins in Moscow in the early 1980's. A young boy is struck by lightning and told he will lead an unusual life. He grows up to be Misha (Ed Stoppard), a history student who learns he has a talent for marketing. He ends up working for an American spy (Jeffrey Tambor). Meanwhile, Max Von Sydow is helping fast food companies find a way to become popular again when their sales sag. The efforts work and fas food continues to sell and far becomes cool.

Along the way, Misha has a relationship with the spy's daughter (Leelee Sobieski). He also winds up in the wilderness where he escapes the reach of advertising brands. He sacrifices a cow and begins seeing brand mascots grow out of people's necks, like clown painted leeches. He begins a campaign to stop the growth of the brands by pitting the mascots against each other. He also learns he has a child and is sort of losing his mind.

It is hard to describe the plot without highlighting the sloppiness of the movie. It was written and directed by the team of Jamie Bradshaw and Alexander Doulerain. As presented by the duo, it is hard to follow as it bounces around from scene to scene without adequately developing any relationship between them.

I really wanted to like the bizarre quality of the movie, but I think the last straw was the bit with the cow. This thing is just really out there and rarely in a good way. It basically comes down to the idea that brands and advertising are bad and we need to take back control of the products we like.

All right. Sure. It is really just a whole bunch of nonsense masquerading as a movie. The idea could not get out of the way of the movie, this causing a wreck of catastrophic proportions.

Not Recommended.

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