Almost Super: The Demolisher
The Demolisher 2015
I often find it fascinating where my whims take me. Lately, I have been making more of a point to borrow movies from my local library and I’m often surprised by the smaller, independent movies that they have available. During my last trip, I saw a blu-ray on their new release shelf that caught my eye. It was called the Demolisher, the font of the title had a comic book feel to it, and reading the back of the box it looked and sounded like a cross between the Punisher, and possibly Judge Dredd just based on the riot gear outfit. I didn’t pick it up right away, but I did check out the trailer and was impressed enough to check it out the next time I was there. While I ultimately decided that it didn’t quite fit my criteria for a superhero movie: there is a costume, but not really any alter ego, and it’s more about vengeance than vigilantism. But after watching it, I did find the film rather fascinating and well made enough that I wanted to talk about it here on this site. The cinematography is gorgeous in places, and the film doesn’t fall into the low budget trap of too much expository dialogue, instead it allows the scene to play out often silently, or near silently. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it was quite fascinating.
The Demolisher is about failure and frustration. Bruce is a buffed out cable repairman who cares for his paraplegic wife after she suffered an injury working as a police officer. There’s nothing he can do about her injury except to go after those he think contributed to her condition. So he spends his spare time wearing a full riot gear outfit punishing criminals. But as the film goes on, it’s not just criminals that he goes after. During one of his outings for work, he snaps when he mishears his client say “as useless as your wife” instead of “wifi” and he straight up strangles the guy to death. The film also takes time to follow the story of a young woman who just happens to cross the Demolisher’s path when she finds his wedding band necklace after a movie and tries to pawn it off.
Where the movie does struggle is in its clarity. So much time is spent trying to wordlessly convey the emotions and narrative surrounding these characters, that some of the context does get lost without repeat viewings or jumps in logic to fill in the gaps. It’s not entirely clear why he is relentlessly chasing this young woman, it’s not entirely clear why he decided to take on this vigilante persona, but it often doesn’t really matter. The emotion is real and it’s backed up by an often gorgeous backdrop that’s filmed in shades of red and blue that gives the city and the neighborhood they filmed in a life of its own. The techno inspired soundtrack also adds to the building tension and frustration felt by the characters combined with a sense of helplessness.
The lack of dialogue could pose a challenge in the hands of amateur actors, but for the most part the entire cast pull off great performances. There are times where Ry Barrett’s screams of rage seem to fall a little too far over the top, but he handles the wordless bubbling undercurrent of rage expertly, while Tianna Nori handles the frustrations of someone learning to live with a new disability just as well. She has just as many moments of strength and vulnerability and they are all shot with great care and an eye for the visuals. One final complaint was when the young woman victim gets rescued by members of the gang that the Demolisher has been after, there’s one character who comes off as a very cliched stereotypical rapist. But outside of that moment, the prolonged cat and mouse chase between her and the Demolisher is a treat to watch. It does come off as a bit of a slow burn, but it captures the relentlessness combined with his obligations as he takes a break from the chase to check on his wife when his watch timer goes off. A timer that was set up in an earlier scene. It all comes together to form a fascinating whole. It’s not just a film about a violent vigilante. There are a few action scenes, but it’s not about the blood or the fights, it’s more about the psychology and the characters. It’s about crafting the scene around them and layering it with the visuals and the soundtrack to form something fascinating. It’s not a film for everybody by any means, and while I haven’t seen a Nicolas Winding Refn film, he is mentioned in the “Special Thanks” section of the credits and from what I’ve heard of his work, this could very well be a fitting, low budget homage to his style. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.