27 July 2010

The Horseman

The Horseman
Starring Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy
Written & Directed by Steven Kastrissios
Release: 29 June 2008
Umbrella Entertainment, 96 mins., Rated R

Plot: Christian wants revenge on whoever was complicit in the death of his daughter.

Brutal. Grainy. Hand-held camera. Australian. Blood. Ouch, nipples. Grounded, very real.

That's The Horseman for you. Flipping through the recent FANGORIA issue on my break at work, the DVD movie review section picked this production as Movie of the Month (or something to that extent). Turns out it's a revenge story, a fathering avenging the death of his daughter. Alright, I can get behind that; I dig revenge stories. Sounds like Taken without Liam Neeson's CIA contacts and a PG-13 rating. Well, it's only a tiny bit similar to Taken. See, Taken has boundaries, Horseman is almost like a documentary of a real-life father who is just a bit disconnected to the environment around him but is determined about one thing: killing with any means possible anyone connected to his daughter's death. This guy does anything and everything - there are no boundaries. He's not like Jack Bauer, who gets hit maybe twice and then beats the bad guys. On the contrary, he gets as pulverized as much as he dishes it out.

Blood is in abundance in nearly every scene, punching and the utmost pain is a regular sight in the film's hour and thirty-some minute run-time. The brutality and violence of The Horseman gets a lot of flak by critics, but honestly - it's necessary. It's obvious that, unlike Lionsgate's SAW films, there's a real reason for it all - the blood, the pain, the violence. And it all feels real - we the audience feel every hard punch Christian (our anti-hero father) receives, and the major amount of ouchness he endures during the third act of the picture. It's not cartoony, it's not James Bond-y, it's not over-the-top. This is mono-a-mono, fights to the death. I'm sure the writer/director was trying to make a point about showcasing the violence in such a light: the road of revenge gives you nothing in turn but pain and agony, perhaps? Blood for blood? Eh, dunno. Not good with the metaphorical or philosophical undercurrents of a show.

Overall, The Horseman is a alright movie. It kept me interested, but for the most part I wasn't really hooked or grabbed until the third act, when the tables are turned on Christian and it becomes a fight for survival. If there's any one thing I think that hinders the movie, I would say it's the hand-held camerawork. More often than not, I don't have a problem with it. None. But it just felt unnecessary for 85% of the time. Sequences where it's a chaotic fight, when Christian is pulling out any tricks he can to win the battle, than sure, hand-held away. But I think the production could have benefited from a few more Steadicam shots. Script-wise...well, it's a revenge story. Not much to tell. But I really do think there needed to be more. At least a scene between Christian and his daughter, perhaps a flashback to the last time they ever see each other. Y'know, give us a real deep emotional moment that grabs us and really makes us root for him to succeed.

In the end, I can't say I'd particularly recommend The Horseman. Out of the pantheon of revenge stories out there in the world, there's certainly others that rank above this modest production. But if you're curious, I would just heed a rental first. Not sure if it warrants a blind buy.

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