Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Killing Gene: Grade B


The Killing Gene (2007)

Stellan Skarsgård, Barbara Adair; Director Tom Shankland.

This British crime drama is violent, bloody, and brutal. There is torture, mutilation, rape, and lots of blood. I generally dislike gory violence and especially, torture, because it is almost invariably gratuitous – blood for the sake of blood. Pure sensationalism. But not in this film.

The idea is that a rape and mutilation victim who recovered and survived into adulthood wants revenge on the police detective and several others who failed to capture her tormentor. But the interesting thing about revenge is that it does not work. Let’s say you track down and kill the person who did you wrong. The perpetrator gets little or no satisfaction from that, and the victim of revenge typically feels anger but not remorse. Nobody is satisfied, nobody learns anything, and the project is a failure.

What if you just beat up and mutilate your tormenter? Same thing: It does not make you whole, and it is not a situation in which the tormenter has an inclination to remorse. Again it fails. I had thought that the perfect revenge movie could not be made therefore, but this one comes close.

The vengeant woman’s strategy is to capture her victim and, somebody that person loves. Then she tortures that person until they agree to kill the person they love to end the pain. That’s her revenge, to watch her tormenter suffer both physical and emotional pain the way she did. That might work, psychologically.

In this movie, she kills the victim after the victim kills the loved one, whereas it seems it might be better to let that person live with the psychological pain of what they did. That would be better revenge. And she not only kills them but mutilates them by carving messages into their flesh (before or after the torture is not clear). What sense does that make in the context of the revenge theory? Not much, so that mutilation aspect borders on the gratuitous.

Nevertheless, there is an overlaid story that she is or was a mad scientist of some sort who had studied the genetics of altruism and was interested in finding out if the genetic predisposition to care for your loved ones can be overcome by torture. That is a pretty weak experimental question, and in the final scenes, the victim and the loved one are not even genetically related. So overall the story does not make a lot of sense, but it is well acted, well photographed, thought-provoking, and I liked its new theory of revenge, so I give it a paradoxical B even though I dislike blood and guts movies as a rule.

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