Direct by: Ken Sanzel
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, Maura Shelton
In Columbia, two gunslingers, John and Colt, travel the underground duelling circuit for very different reasons. Colt is searching for the man who killed her brother in a duel and hoping to face him herself, while John is hoping to catch the attention of Wesley, the scout looking for duellists good enough to be a challenge for her employer, the elusive and enigmatic Zorringer. John and Colt end up travelling the road together, becoming lovers, and both questioning each other about what is on the other side of their destiny...
Blunt Force Trauma. The title may sound like a meat-headed action movie starring Steven Seagal (I'm actually surprised he hasn't used that one yet), but this film is one of the most poetic action films I've seen in ages, both in terms of its story, it's script, and its visual style.
The start of the film is a text-book example of how to do visual storytelling, establishing the setting, the characters and the rules of duelling without even a word spoken. It was during this sequence that I knew that this was going to be a bit special, and it only got better from there.
Readers may know Ryan Kwanten as Jason Stackhouse in the vampire tv series, Tru Blood. He also recently did good work in the action movie Northmen: A Viking Saga. This is his best role to date, as the quietly confident John, eager to prove himself against the best. He's well matched though by Frieda Pinto, who delivers what is possibly my favourite performance of the year as Colt.
One of the great things about the character of Colt is that she has her own agenda in the film. Her needs don't necessarily follow those of John's and you truly get the feeling that there is this Venn Diagram of these two people's worlds just overlapping for a short period of time. Colt a very independent young woman and is very confident in both her duelling ability and her sexuality. She is driven by revenge, her way of coping with her brother's pointless death, and her personal element of the story has a very unconventional resolution. Her delivery of her last line: "Stupid, stupid man", is so good, that its actually repeated at the end of the film!
Blunt Force Trauma also boasts some great unique action. The last film I can remember seeing about duelling was The Quick and The Dead, so its about time the subject was resurrected. The duel sequences are all very tense affairs (especially that first one), each taking place in a different location and each with their own way of starting. The duels are meant to be non-lethal (the competitors wear bullet-proof vests) but that doesn't lessen the stakes, as the film does a good job of explaining its own title.
The cinematography throughout the film is outstanding, bringing the rural Columbia to life, and with some great wide-angle shots during the duels to ensure that both competitors are in shot at the same time.
Blunt Force Trauma is always building to the point where John is good enough to meet Zorringer, and their eventual meeting doesn't disappoint. First, Zorringer is played by Mickey Rourke, giving another of his weird interpretations, similar in fact to his character Tool in The Expendables. Rourke makes a point of playing with a parakeet while delivering his lines, and there's a moment when John tries to do the same but with varying results! Zorringer understands the needs and wants of the people he's facing. He knows that there needs to be something a little special about his duels. As such, the stylish finale would make Kurosawa and Leone proud.
It would be fair to say that this film totally blew me away with its poetic and earthy style and brilliant performances - especially that by Frieda Pinto. Highly, thoroughly recommended.
10 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)