Does what we see, end up influencing what we ultimately do?
At first glance, Random Acts of Violence which is enjoying a limited theatrical run and bowing on VOD today is just a trashy slasher flick. It is…but it’s so much more as it actually makes some pretty interesting social commentary while drenching itself in a layer of gore that would make some of the masters of the genre pretty proud.
What are the real consequences when life begins to imitate art?
Comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams), his wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora and best friend, Hard Calibre Comics owner Ezra (Jay Baruchel), embark upon a road trip from Toronto to NYC comic con and bad things start to happen. People start getting killed. It soon becomes clear that a crazed fan is using Todd’s “SLASHERMAN” comic as inspiration for the killings and as the bodies pile up, and Todd’s friends and family become victims themselves, Todd will be forced to take artistic responsibility.
Yeah it’s a blood soaked splatter film, but Random Acts of Violence does at least TRY to give the violence some meaning. While it occasionally gets a little clunky with its narrative, it marks itself as a visually bold effort that deserves some significant love as one of Canada’s own beloved stars announces himself as a genuine storyteller that we just might have to pay attention to.
While this isn’t the first film directed by Jay Baruchel and co written with Jesse Chabot, I would argue that this is a huge step up from Goon: Last Of The Enforcers as Baruchel and his team are really crafting a film that says something with far more than just its words.
There are so many sequences in this film that are draped in the kind of color that is reminiscent of Mandy from a couple of years back and that’s the point. While Baruchel is making some really interesting statements about the impact of violence on society, he’s making sure that he’s taking us the viewer out of any kind of perceivable comfort zone and into a new world which is actually pretty terrifying. The script which is adapted from a comic of the same name, has flashes of brilliance but also hits us over the head with exposition on occasion as well, which makes it all interesting with plenty of potential but not as polished as you might hope given the films lean and mean 80 minute run time.
Working with cinematographer Karim Hussain (who shot Hobo With A Shotgun) we get something that is not only incredibly grimy, but in fitting with the narrative is also exceptionally beautiful to just watch as it all unfolds. This is actually where Random Acts of Violence works the best, because Baruchel is very purposely wrapping up this emotionally complex idea of how violence in art and their depictions can potentially have an effect on real day to day life for some people and if it’s OK to legitimize any kind of violence and cruelty by visualizing it. There’s no right or wrong answer, but at least as a story teller Baruchel is asking the question in a very compelling way.
The ensemble in this small film of Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster and even Baruchel himself are all fine, but outside of the revelations that we witness from Todd’s life, everyone else in the story is more or less a prop and along for the ride.
Random Acts of Violence is essentially an imperfect hybrid of a film. It tells a visual story that is lush in its willingness to allow the audience to get a little filthy along the way, but the emotional pay offs of it all don’t work nearly as well visual framework of it all. It’s a glorious tribute to the messy horror films of yesteryear that were never afraid to try and be something a little different but it needed a little more emotional punch to make it something that would resonate with audiences like you can tell that it wants too.