• Review: Brimstone (2017)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Mon Mar 6 13:04:31 2017
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: Told in four chapters, this is the grim and
    painful story of a woman dominated by men on the
    American frontier. The story is presented in Grand
    Guignol style with a feeling that writer/director Martin
    Koolhoven is behind it all winking at the audience.
    Take this film seriously and it is little but a
    pointlessly harrowing film experience. Accept it as an
    exaggerated horror story and it will be a considerably
    better film. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

    Sadism, bondage, hanging, prostitution, incest, murder, and all
    manner of cruelty: they are all here. BRIMSSTONE is part feminist
    diatribe, part exaggerated horror film, part Western. Your
    reaction to the film may well be dependent on how seriously you
    take it. This is a Dutch-French-German co-produced Western about
    the grim and bleak condition of women in the American frontier. In
    other words it is a bunch of Europeans telling each other how bad
    Americans are.

    A woman--Liz, played by Dakota Fanning--is persecuted because as a
    midwife she chose to save the life of a mother at the cost of the
    life of the baby. A preacher called "the Reverend" (Guy Pearce
    with a deeply scarred face and worse scarred soul) exacts what he
    considers the proper, scripture-dictated, vengeance of God on the
    woman. His churchgoers just meekly submit to his will. BRIMSTONE
    was conceived, written, and directed by Dutchman, Martin Koolhoven.
    Atrocity follows on atrocity as women are abused and persecuted by
    the male-run society. The issues are righteous, but the
    accusations and abuses are laid onto the story a little thickly.

    The film requires a strong performance from its villain to take him
    seriously enough and Guy Pearce is versatile enough to be taken as
    the evil prime mover of this society. I am unfamiliar with any
    film in which Pearce has projected malice as he does in this film,
    even falling to howl like a dog. It is as shocking as seeing Alan
    Arkin in WAIT UNTIL DARK or Anthony Hopkins in THE SILENCE OF THE
    LAMBS. Dakota Fanning's Liz walks a narrow step between placid and
    tense. She seems as meek as her neighbors but is ready to take
    care of herself. There is little doubt who will win in the end,
    but what will the viewer see along the way of the journey.

    The film is 149 minutes long and told in four chapters. The second
    chapter tells how the first came about; the third chapter tells how
    the second came about. The final chapter wraps it all up after the
    first chapter. If the viewer is to sit there and take all of the
    abuses seriously, this is a very dismal film. This, however, is
    women's history as seen through a Grand Guignol lens. That says
    that it needs to be taken with just a little grain of salt.

    If the viewer sees BRIMSTONE as a serious look at the treatment an
    position of women in the American West, this film will quickly dip
    into a shocking and perhaps nauseating territory. If it is taken
    as a horror tale intended to do little more than shock this film
    will not disappoint. As a horror film I rate BRIMSTONE a low +2 on
    the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. Those who want to take seriously what
    is on the screen should take several rating points off.

    BRIMSTONE will go into limited release March 10, 2017.

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    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper

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