Thursday, August 22, 2013

Film Review: Graceland (2012)

Graceland (Review)
Philippines/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...it travels into territory Hollywood wouldn't dare enter..."

Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes), a chauffeur for the corrupt Filipino politician Manuel Changho, is pulled over while taking Changho's daughter, as well as his own, home. A routine traffic stop quickly turns into a bloodbath as Changho's daughter is killed and Marlon's daughter is kidnapped. Now, to save his daughter, Marlon, the only witness to the crime, must convince Changho and the police into believing both children are alive...

Graceland is a raw, gritty kidnap thriller. The story is simplistic yet detailed. It travels deep into the criminal underworld -- particularly the underworld of child prostitution and the organ trade. Marlon still feels like a chauffeur as he is directed to bring Changho to face his inner demons. The story continues with Marlon stuck in the middle; on one hand, Marlon must comply with the kidnappers to keep his daughter alive, regardless of the situation; on the other hand, Marlon must keep Changho's daughter's death a secret, as well as his communication with the kidnappers, as Changho and the police become suspicious of Marlon' involvement. The twist arrived with a powerful, breathtaking blow -- some may see it coming, many will be in awe. The ending is somewhat confusing, at least briefly; however, I took a minute to think and really think I have it pieced together -- definitely a chilling ending.

Like the story, the storytelling and the events within the story are simplistic. This isn't a Liam Neeson kidnap action film like Taken. No, this is a dark, realistic kidnap thriller. Its dark subject matter is graphically presented. Some of the scenes are unbelievable; those who don't often watch foreign films will likely be shocked. Other than the intro, where we witness a sweet relationship between father and daughter as well as the daughters' close friendship, most of the film is dark and depressing; however, it's emotionally shocking and effective. Don't expect to be smiling and laughing, and don't expect action thrills. The film mostly consists of dialogue and tense and disturbing situations; these are masterfully executed and engaging.

Arnold Reyes is fantastic as the lead. His facial expressions are particularly impressive -- you can see the look of concern and sadness in his face. The rest of the acting is equally impressive with raw and genuine emotion from a standout cast, and great dialogue delivery. The film's shooting style fits well with the gritty subject and the environment. The music is fantastic, its a very strong element for the final act and the ending. The writing is tight and smooth, the end could've been clearer, but it ultimately works. The pace is fair, leaning towards fast pace -- the runtime is short, coming in at a lightweight 1hr 17min without credits.

Overall, Graceland is a haunting kidnap thriller. It's not the most innovative film in the world, but it travels into territory Hollywood wouldn't dare enter -- and it deserves credit for that. The film is tense, disturbing, and even frightening -- especially for parents. Don't miss Graceland, you won't be able to forget it.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, nudity.

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