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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GRACELAND (2012)

From the Philippines, writer/director Ron Morales neatly repurposes the set-up from Akira Kurosawa’s HIGH AND LOW/’63 and almost gets away with it. What remains intact is the misreported kidnapping of a V.I.P.’s kid. Turns out, it’s the rich guy’s personal driver whose child is being held for ransom. Even by that point, things are spinning out of control in very different fashion. Morales eschews the rigorous stylistic exercises of late Kurosawa for gritty cinema verite; and that goes double for his take-no-prisoners storyline. Here, the powerful businessman is a corrupt politician with a nasty taste for teenage flesh our driver is helpless to stop, especially with a sick wife & child to care for. Morales makes a lot of good moves with camera, plotting & cast, but gives in to one more amoral twist then the film can support right at the end. A ‘got’cha’ moment that might have worked in a slicker kind of production. (An Alternate Ending on the DVD hints at similar reservations by the filmmaker.) But for an early effort, a lot of powerful stuff comes thru.

DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, Kurosawa’s HIGH AND LOW.

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