INFLICTION * USA 2014 Dir: Jack Thomas Smith. 105 mins
In North Carolina, two brothers (Jason Mac, Elliott Armstrong) use multiple cameras to document their killing spree: beginning with a prominent judge, they target respected citizens they consider complicit in their own past suffering. Writer-director Jack Thomas Smith’s film strives to be a downbeat, realistic study of the enduring impact of child abuse: violence begets violence and those employed in society to help the victimised only succeed in adding to their long-term torment.
The film’s intentions are, arguably, good, and the themes at its core echo the marvellously angry, gruesome and establishment-baiting Pete Walker movies of the 70’s. The execution, however, is questionable at best, as it veers between credibly nasty torture-movie assaults (throat slashing, a scalping, house brick bludgeonings) and pretentious, heavy handed conversations about free will, karma and, of course, The System that fucked over the embittered, disturbed antagonists. The script is dialogue-heavy, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if so much of it wasn’t so awful (one character has to say the line “You look like you got raped by a gang of swinging dicks”) and the film’s treatment of its incendiary subject matter is often offensively simplistic. Worse still, the film’s decision to unfold as the “found” footage shot by Mac and Armstrong (mimicking the amateur, multi-angle videos shot by their abusive family) results in unintentionally amusing scenes of the brothers pointing cameras at each other while having intimate conversations, walking into bars or being attacked by gun / poker-wielding assailants. It’s an unsurmountable misjudgement that INFLICTION never overcomes.
Review by Steven West