Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie with Abe: Heartless

Directed by Philip Ridley
Released November 19, 2010

Deals with the devil can be tricky. It’s important to read the fine print since that’s often the only thing that matters. When a miserable soul has a physical deformity which he is seeking to cast off in exchange for some service to the devil, things can get especially suspicious, and a general air of caution is recommended. For Jamie Morgan, a young man with a hideous birthmark surrounding his eye and on his neck, getting rid of his physical baggage is something that seems to be good to be true, and, unsurprisingly, it is.

One of the few films these days with a title that isn’t a metaphor but rather the straight truth, “Heartless” is a peculiar film that starts out as a frightful drama and quickly descends into incomprehensible horror territory. When Jamie witnesses a pack of thugs beating up a civilian, he is astounded when one of the thugs turns around and reveals himself to be inhuman (a faceless demon, in fact). Jamie’s dull and uninteresting life quickly turns violent and volatile as he is embroiled in supernatural matters that he can’t hope to cope with or comprehend.

The film presents events as Jamie sees them, which makes for an awful head trip of a film. It’s difficult to understand just what is meant to be going on objectively and what is meant to be imagined or misinterpreted by the lead character, and Jamie’s head is not a pleasant place to be. It seems like more of an excuse not to fully explain the story or to delineate and distinguish what is meant to be real and what is meant to be hallucination, dream, or pure fantasy on Jamie’s part.

“Heartless” falls prey to the convention of spiraling downwards along with its main character, following the craziness in a way that doesn’t make any more (and often even less) sense to the audience than it does to its protagonist. Jamie isn’t framed as a hero or a particularly nice guy, so it’s additionally difficult to empathize with him and stay with him through his dark, treacherous, convoluted journey. Some parts of the film contain unexpected humor, like a cameo from the always-terrific Eddie Marsan as the devil’s Weapons Man, and while the humor is appreciated in such a dark, dismal film, it doesn’t flow with the rest of the movie. “Heartless” is a messy, mostly incomprehensible experience without anything else to recommend it.


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