Monday, February 18, 2013

Netflix'd :: Clearing Out the Instant Que :: SPOILERS AHOY! :: Gonna Let You in On a Little Secret About Pascal Laugier's The Tall Man (2012)

When the children of a backwater burgh named Cold Rock start disappearing without a trace, as the police investigation goes nowhere fast (and then drags on indefinitely), the locals begin to mythologize the sightings of a mysterious Tall Man, dressed in black, who is seen in fleetingly brief glimpses before each abduction. Times are tough enough in Cold Rock, what with the mine closed, folks out of work, and now, between swigs of beer and statutory raping, these poor and destitute bastards face the loss of their loved ones (-- or judging by the film's keen, part of their welfare stipends) with no answers as to who, what, where, when and why. The film proper picks up when the son of a crusading nurse at the local health clinic (Biel) is the next to disappear; only this time she seemingly catches the Tall Man in the act, gives chase, and desperately tries to get her boy back with much ferocity, sustained grievous bodily harm, and conspiracy unraveling. Seemingly? Conspiracy, you say? Ah, yes, things aren't exactly what they seem to be as we find out what's really been happening to the children of Cold Rock -- and who's really and truly responsible for all of this malfeasance.

Okay, folks, gonna break one of my cardinal reviewing vows, here. For anyone considering watching The Tall Man read these next few sentences very carefully: Jessica Biel's character is really the bad guy, her husband isn't dead and in on it all (our Tall Man, ladies and gents), and so the missing children aren't the victims of some hideous molester, cult, or ancient demon from the woods. Nope. They've been kidnapped from these unworthy hayseeds, crackers, and rednecks and taken to the big city to be adopted by some worthy rich and cultured folks -- not for money, nay, that would be an insult, but for the "greater good." Of course, then, the movie paints these kidnappers as crusading heroes, doing it for the children, because, and I quote "the system is broken", making a noble sacrifice when their own system of systematic abductions and relocation finally implodes and 1/2 the team is sent to prison as a faux serial killer, telling the now completely devastated parents their children are dead, fracturing and punishing them even further, including the real mother of the boy we thought was Biel's, who tried and failed to get him back (constituting a good chunk of the movie) thanks to our "hero". There, I spoiled it all and now you don't have to sit through this thoroughly misguided and mawkishly self-righteous piece of -- dammit. I can't do it. (Just because you don't like something doesn't make it a piece of shit. It just means you didn't like it. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)

Director Pascal Laugier has been tagged as a provocateur and judging by my reaction to The Tall Man, sure, why not. Why take a side on an issue when I can play both sides against one another and piss everyone off instead? I mean, If I went to the grocery store, dropped trou', took a dump into my hand, and showed the end-result of all the food they're gonna buy to passing customers that'd make me a provocateur, too, right? What?! It was for the greater good. Feh. And what's really frustrating about The Tall Man is that for the first hour or so I was really digging the hell out of it, had no idea where it was going or how it would end, and was ready to call it a surprising and unsuspected gem, with a good twist, set up beautifully, and didn't cheat, that was striving and succeeding at being different by knocking normal expectations right on its ass. The film is technically sound, and quite brilliant in a few spots. Biel is really, really good in this, too. As is McHattie, who plays the hapless Fed duped by her duplicity. Dammit. I was ready to light a candle and shine the light. But then the last half hour turned it into a big steaming pile of (yes) shit with the revelation of the Underground Cracker Railroad, the critical misfire of making a martyr out of our now silent child abductor (-- and I hope there's a deleted scene on the DVD where her fellow inmates beat the crap out of her sanctimonious "baby-killing" ass), and the excessive use of the giant Clown Hammer of Morality in the final "three mothers" speech, which tried so hard to pound some profundity into our heads but failed most epically to justify anything and raised a few knots of ire instead.

And as the end credits rolled, and I resisted flinging the remote at the TV screen, the one thought that kept bouncing around amongst all the crap I had just witnessed was a notion that perhaps instead of kidnapping -- oop, nope, sorry, liberating trailer trash offspring, or even inner-city slum kids (as all the victims here are relatively clean, healthy and awfully, awfully white), our turgid kidnapping team of assholes would do an even more greater good by kidnapping and relocating the Joan Bennet Ramseys, Dylan Klebolds, Eric Harrises, Jordan Vandersloots and Adam Lanzas of the world. What say you, Mr. Laugier? Provocative enough?

The Tall Man (2012) Cold Rock Productions BC :: Forecast Pictures :: Iron Ocean Films :: Minds Eye Entertainment :: Radar Films :: SND / Image Entertainment / P: A lot of people / D: Pascal Laugier / W: Pascal Laugier / C: Kamal Derkaoui / E: Sébastien Prangère / M: Todd Bryanton / S: Jessica Biel, Stephen McHattie Jodelle Ferland, William B. Davis, Samantha Ferris, Colleen Wheeler

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