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STUDIO: Entertainment One
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
Written and Directed by Ole Bornedal. Acted by Lasse Rimmer, Jens Andersen, Mogens Pedersen, Lene Nystrom, Fanny Bornedal, Bojan Navojec, Sonja Richter and Alexandre Willaume.
We see life in a small Danish village. Lars (Andersen) is kind of a piece of shit. He drives an 18 wheeler for a living while pounding Vodka and when his girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant he spits at her. Lars’ brother Johannes (Rimmer) is doing quite a bit better, as he’s married to a gorgeous woman, has two children with all their fingers and toes and is slowly rebuilding the house he grew up in. When Lars runs over an elderly woman on her scooter while trying to light a cigarette, he drags the body off the road, grabs some bloody evidence and plants it on a slow witted Bosnian immigrant named Alain (Navojec). When the husband of the dead woman finds the evidence and the drunken miscreants of the town decide to take justice into their own hand, only Johannes can protect Alain from the men and the women that would string him up.
Just a quick clarification: This movie is neither the documentary from 2006 about the Catholic Church’s attempts to hide a pedophile, nor is it Deliver Us From Eva, the romantic comedy from 2003 with LL Cool J and the absurdly hot Gabrielle Union. I’m glad it’s a new movie I haven’t seen before, because I’ve seen both of those movies and was aroused by only one of them. No, this movie is Danish and bubbling with intensity and, even though it stumbles here and there, it sticks the landing well enough to feel satisfying, if slight. It probably would have made more of a lasting impression if it hadn’t seemed so afraid to commit to the tone and seriousness of it’s subject matter.
The opening of the film is narrated by a woman walking along the road. She introduces us to all of the important characters in a very breezy and lighthearted way, reminiscent of something along the lines of Amélie. But this only lasts for the first 5 minutes or so and then we’re on our own, allowed to be in the world of the film without any more hand holding or symbolic narration. It’s the perfect choice since the tension starts building instantly and it almost becomes painful to watch since you can see where everything is heading. I don’t mean to say that it’s predictable, just horribly, horribly inevitable.
Once all the aggrieved parties converge and it starts heading to its climax, the film becomes impossible to look away from and the final 15 or 20 minutes contain some of the most intense filmmaking and acting I’ve seen all year. It’s a powerhouse of a climax that left me exhilarated and wondering what could possibly happen in the last couple of minutes. Since I’d completely forgotten about her, imagine my surprise when we jumped back to the narrator who sends us out on a note that could have been light and still maintained the power it had only moments before, but instead her coda is more whimsical in tone and undercuts all of the seriousness of the piece. Now, I’m as big of a fan of mash-up filmmaking as anyone and still think that From Dusk Til Dawn and Shaun of the Dead are the only movies to have walked that line perfectly of respecting multiple genres but not feeling beholden to them. Deliver Us From Evil fails to walk that line because it’s 90 minutes of a psychological thriller and 6 minutes of a whimsical parable about small town Danish life.
None of this means that it’s not an enjoyable movie. It’s got some of the best performances I’ve seen all year and if the characters were more sharply drawn then it would have made for an excellent character study instead of just a solid little revenge tale. The most you get to know of the characters is what the narrator tells you about them in the opening sequence. The rest of the film feels like the characters are telling us how they’re feeling instead of showing us through performance and behavior. It’s all a bit too critical though because I think the things that I was looking for to make this a genre classic were all things the filmmaker had no interest in portraying. I think the first hour of the movie exists just so he could stage the climactic standoff. All of the shortcomings really fall by the wayside in that final half hour. I found myself on the edge of my seat for a huge chunk of the finale, not really wanting to see how it all shook out because I couldn’t see how it wouldn’t be horrible for everyone involved. It’s a testament to the film that it feels like an organic ending to the film instead of something overly contrived like it could have been.
Deliver Us From Evil is worth your time but don’t expect a transcendent filmic experience. It’s just more of a pleasant surprise bolstered by assured direction, incredibly committed performances and a showstopper of a final setpiece. As long as you keep your expectations in check you’ll have a nice time with this film. It’s just a shame it isn’t more because almost all the pieces are there. The script might have just needed one more draft to be cooked properly but a good BLT is better than an undercooked salmon any day.
Some interesting featurettes about the tone they were going for with the film and the character work they were attempting to make it all work. It seems like they did their homework and were fully prepared to make this the next Blood Simple, but none of the incredible work these actors are doing is helped by a script that thinks it’s smarter than it is. The audio is fantastic but there’s a bit of ghosting on the visuals that last for the entire running time. Regardless, it’s worth picking up for less than 8 bucks on Amazon.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars