Sundance Film Review: To Kill A Man

Posted January 21, 2014 in
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Photo: Angela Jarpas

To Kill a Man
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Alejandro Fernández Almendras

Opening with a promising still shot of a forest scene and aggressive baritone horn music as the lead character Jorge (Daniel Candia) appears in the light, To Kill a Man is a unique and artistic addition to the revenge movie catalog. The premise is simple and realistic, varying from most over-the-top revenge flicks. Its lack of Hollywood action tropes and its subdued tone only lend to the film’s creeping tension, complemented by an excellent and sparingly used score. Almendras’ thoughtful and poetic camerawork adds to the layers of suspense—the camera stays still, focused on the center of the shot (oftentimes a door) and lets the action work around it, whether on or off-screen. The plot begins as Jorge is belittled by a gang of thugs walking home from the grocery store, who end up mugging him and taking his insulin pack. When his son goes to buy it back from them, he’s shot by the leader and ends up in the hospital for three months. The perpetrator, Kalule (Daniel Antivilo), gets a couple of years in prison since the only evidence that Jorge’s son wasn’t shot in self-defense is an eyewitness account from Jorge himself. When he’s released, he begins to harass the family in retaliation, beginning with threatening phone calls and escalating to the attempted rape of Jorge’s teenage daughter—the breaking point for her father. Jorge is a common man, powerless against a justice system that requires more than just "pranks" to put Kalule in prison again, and his inability to protect his family drives him to desperate measures. Masculinity is a major theme from the get-go, and drives the plot and character development from beginning to end (a short 90 minutes). Jorge’s character is quiet and even cowardly at times—he’s no fearless vigilante, but rather an anti-hero. His erratic behavior in the final moments of the film brought to mind Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, though I don’t believe Jorge is motivated by guilt, but rather desperation for acknowledgement of his actions. The irony is in the evidence, and though the film lags in a few spots, its poetic finale is worth every moment.

Screenings:

Time: 1.23 9 AM Venue: Temple Theatre, Park City
Time: 1.24 Noon Venue: Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City

Photos: