March 23, 2014

Movie Review: Random Acts of Violence

Shot in 2010, this low budget black comedy/thriller played the festival circuit under the name Charm. At some point it was retitled Malcolm before settling on Random Acts of Violence. I am not sure what title I actually prefer. It's current moniker does not seem quite right and while I like the idea of Charm as the title, that doesn't fit too well either. As for Malcolm, well, that puts it too close to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Not that I have any better ideas. The film itself is not bad, although it owes a huge debt to Remy Belvaux's Man Bites Dog. If you haven't seen that, stop reading this and go watch that. It's all right, with a small amount of luck this will still be here should you choose to come back.

Random Acts of Violence is framed as a personal documentary project by Malcolm. This fellow is a transplanted Brit who spent is high school and other formative years in New York City. He has fallen in love with the bohemian, gritty city of the past. Back when property values were low, the streets filled with bums, drunks, and junkies, and artists had a chance at practicing and advancing their art in the big city. All of that is gone and Malcolm laments the gentrification of the city. He has a plan to change the path of the city's future. A wave of bloodshed aiming to awaken the sleeping populace, start a revolution and bring the city back to the artists and the bums.

We follow Malcolm as he talks about the New York of the past and how he is trying to kickstart a revolution through a wave of violence. He goes about shooting, stabbing, bludgeoning, and drowning random people. He checks the papers the next morning for any reporting in his actions, but sees nothing. This does not please him, how can the revolution start if no one knows it is happening?

In between the killing and the paper searching, we watch him with his friends. A group of wannabe snobs that actually annoyed me. You see, these folks also happen to be hipster cinema snobs wearing homemade Truffaut and Godard t-shirts and discussing the worth of Clint Eastwood's filmography.

Now, the movie does have moments where it drags, but it still remains mostly entertaining. It has a nice build as we watch Malcolm appear to lose some of his focus. His attention wavers and changes a bit as some things happen involving those within his circle, to the point that the film crew he is working with feel the need to get involved. It all builds to his final play, a Taxi Driver-esque dive down the rabbit hole. It is not exactly the same thing and leads to an actual conclusion I probably should have seen coming, but didn't, and quite liked.

The movie was written/directed/produced/edited by Ashley Cahill, who also happens to star as Malcolm. He has made an interesting debut feature. Sure, it owes great debts to films that have come before it, but he has done it with a smarmy central character that I felt nothing for, like an annoying co-worker you just want to punch, but am not entirely sure if he may go off the deep end following said action. He does help the star power by getting a cameo from Kirsten Dunst, with whom he is real life friends with. Additionally, the movie was produced by Wes Craven's son, Jon.

It may feel a bit derivative, but Cahill has made a movie that does entertain. I like the idea of starting a revolution, using the violence to awaken the masses (not something I would actually advocate). The biggest flaw I see is that it loses its focus on that revolutionary theme and moves onto characters. I guess characters have to matter, but it seems to distract from the bigger picture and make the movie's world a bit smaller and more constrictive. Still, this is something to watch. Far from groundbreaking, but still worth it.


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