Dir: Ulli Lommel. US-Germany. 2009. 80mins.
The momentously titled Absolute Evil is a search for justice in which a daughter probes her father’s murder by a criminal gang which she witnessed years before. Dedicated by writer/director/actor Ulli Lommel to Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the real mystery here is how the film-maker sees this tawdry melodrama as interpreting Fassbinder’s legacy.
Absolute Evil is a revenge story. Beautiful African-American Savannah (Neff) checks into a motel with hunky Cooper (Joiner) and returns to the room just as a cop is about to blow Cooper’s brains out. The two escape to their car only to face another gunman, who kills Cooper.
The action rewinds to years before, when Savannah’s car mechanic father is murdered in his garage by a costumed criminal gang in Corpus Christie, Texas. Savannah meets Cooper after she flees to California, and he finds her sprawled on a beach in Los Angeles. As their bond blossoms, she learns that he may be tied to her father’s killers.
If the title of Ulli Lommel’s film is overblown, its realisation is under-wrought. The direction is hackneyed, cinematography amateurish, its editing arhythmic, and its acting awkward.
The version of Absolute Evil that screened in Berlin, supposedly HD, looked like a VHS copy. Close-ups of the lead actors were badly-lit, and looked grotesque. The spoken lines in many scenes sounded off-mike.
Newcomers Neff and Joiner look as if they both walked off modelling jobs. Even when Joiner has his shirt off and keeps ineptly-delivered lines to a minimum, Neff’s over-applied make-up glares out from the screen, eroding any hope of chemistry.
Lommel, who plays a private detective who tortures a suspect for information, has applied the aesthetic of a home movie to his drama. Another personal flourish is his approach to memory in the film, which involves repeating the same scenes again and again. The effect is numbing.
One of those scenes, the murder of Savannah’s father has a particular oddity. As the thugs approach the garage, they are wearing Halloween masks and walk in an unusual choreographed simian style. Lommel quotes from Westerns, films noirs and road movies in Absolute Evil, but an homage to The Planet Of The Apes’ Despite its many flaws, Absolute Evil has a flair for the unexpected.
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