Monday, January 23, 2012

Release - In the Realm of an English Pink

There’s never quite like the Pinoy Pink Film in terms of temperament, ambition (read: the lack of it), artistic limitation or in-your-face mediocrity. Then I saw Darren Flaxtone and Christian Martin’s Release”. The comparison may be a little unfair for this British flick, but the narrative progression and artistic choices that the directors take echo this local emergence.

Father Jack Gillie (Daniel Brocklebank) gets incarcerated for euthanizing his younger brother afflicted with terminal stage leukemia. But this detail is kept from his prison mates, thus everyone thinks of him as the pedophile. His conflicted demeanor draws him to a new prison guard, the idealistic Martin Crane (Garry Summers) who in his quest to do good for mankind turns to the penal system. (Go figure!) The two eventually fall in love. Unfortunately, pedophiles are as reviled among inmates. Jack gets spat at and taunted for his “sins”. It doesn't help that he’s bunked in with a young inmate Rook (Wayne Virgo) who has an issue with influential Max (Bernie Hodges) – and Max is out to get Rook in more ways than one.

The narrative is riddled with a coterie of issues to chew on, none of which is legibly handled: religion, mercy killing, morality in a prison community, homosexuality. You hardly feel any authentic insight into any of these issues. In fact, much of these items conflict with each other. The irony here goes: Jack – the Catholic priest – has totally embraced his homosexuality. We witness no sense of guilt, an issue solely highlighted and deftly handled in insightful movies like Antonia Bird’s “Priest” (where Linus Roach is torn between the religion he preaches and serves and his secret life as a homosexual). In retrospect, we have a priest who believes in mercy killing; a priest who bears no scruples having a male lover. Sure, these things happen, but when someone of his stature doesn’t even feel a degree of conflict in his lifestyle and the teachings he’s supposed to live by, why bother being one?

The story is further weighed down by plot holes the size of Mars. How can Jack and Martin continuously share a concupiscent night in a prison cell without Martin’s fellow guards wondering where he went? Jack is in a bunk with young Rook, what does he tell his younger cellmate – I’m gonna pop out for a fag? Didn't Rook ever wonder? A scene involving the female warden and Max has the latter blackmailing the warden with a mere power of suggestion which is almost laughable. Was she hypnotized? Why does Max hate a pedophile so much when he is surrounded by cold-blooded killers - like himself? Besides, couldn't Jack inform them what brought him inside? That would have ended all the speculations and acts of dissension. It is, after all, a sin to tell a lie. More so, if you’re a priest.

Martin and Jack

The film boasts of a judicious number of full frontals from everyone. In fact, gratuitous nudity becomes this film. In a scene where Max and his horde attack nubile-bodied Rook at the shower hall, there’s an awkward hybrid of violence and nudity as the young prisoner gets bludgeoned by "socked batteries" and the physical assault of Max and his gang. Genitals fly around, swiftly flailing on mid air and against gravity in a winceful spate of violence. Yes, there are several shower scenes – and they’re not bashful where flashing of crowned jewels are concerned - so who says those lingering shower scenes are exclusively Pinoy Pink fodder?

What brought me to watch this film is the reference to Simon Pearce and Christian Martin’s “Shank”. “Release” comes from the same people. Unfortunately, the story is pretty much a muddled artistic fare. The dream sequences, for example, confuse more than move the plot. Wayne Virgo, who was brilliant in “Shank” seemed lost and groping in the dark. His character, which carries the baffling plot twist as the film draws to a close, felt like an artifice for an undeserved deus ex machina. How easily can you turn a coat from heralding a friendly face to the opposite end of the spectrum? You hear a whisper from someone who almost mauled you to death, and you snap into enlightenment? Seriously?

Rational, credible character motivation has been disregarded. In fact, the film neglects the believable progression of Martin and Jack’s relationship which, for the most part, is a maneuvered relationship. It also dispenses lines that, though interesting, feels empty in the context of the story: “There are far worse things than damnation.” Like watching one of our pink films, that’s for sure. There’s more. Jack gets some verbal tussle with Max. “The path of the righteous is beset on all sides by the tyranny of evil men.” Reply: “To thine own self be true. As night follows days, I know who I am.” Inspired already?

Martin does his night rounds

Wayne Virgo plays Rook, Jack's bunk mate.

Dream sequence of Jack roaming the Bristol woodlands

Jack cleans his dirty hands.

Rook gets hurt.

Daniel Brocklebank

Garry Summers as idealistic prison guard Martin.

Wayne Virgo plays Rook.

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