Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Donkey Punch

Olly Blackburn's new movie "Donkey Punch" is kind of unfortunately titled. It is named after the urban myth sex act that surfaced into the collective consciousness a few years ago along with it's cousins "The Eiffel Tower," "The Tarmac," and "Dirty Sanchez." At first, seeing those two words aglow on a marquis is stunning, maybe even a little shameful, but as the film rolls the title's merits reveal themselves. It is as blunt and unapologetic as its characters, and not in recent memory -- maybe even never -- have I seen such characters rendered exactly this way.

"Donkey Punch" begins with three babes taking a Mediterranean vacation. Kim, Lisa, and Tammy go to a club, and meet some dudes: Bluey, Marcus, Josh and Sean. The dudes work on a yacht, take the group out for some druggy and sexy fun, and decide to tape the hot parts with a DV cam. When one of the girls dies via the titular sex act, the guys are quite literally caught with their dicks out. The dudes want to cover it up, the babes want to get back to shore, and no matter what you want, everyone is stuck on this boat together. And thus begins the rest of a very entertaining suspense flick.


(a note to readers: if you find the trailer, don't watch it, it's basically the whole movie condensed)

So, that's Josh there in the foreground with his big glasses, bling and crack pipe. The thing I love about these characters is that they would usually be played as villains. Whenever you see the preppy coke head, or the wild blonde or the doofus bro in pictures, it's with a little bit of a lopside that tries to play audience sympathy one way or the other. My main complaint with a lot of modern, single-concept suspense movies is that the first act is always a really boring set up that tries to get you to like some characters and dislike others, so that when they all start offing each other you have some semblance of emotional attachment to them. I find this false and totally expendable.

"Donkey Punch," on the other hand, asks for no sympathy and does not apologise for its syabrites. The first act is wonderful. I am smitten with the music, totally interested in the escalating relationships, and come to dislike Josh to the point that I am annoyed by just looking at his face -- that stupid sneer accented by a hair lip. Even the way he brings up the donkey punch into conversation is dispicable. I hate his taste in crappy techno. And I feel all of these things not because he's presented as a bad guy. He just is who he is, and I make my decision. And it's different with each character! This is great!



This is a movie that could easily lose itself in tacky jokes and bullshit misogyny, but I think the setting helps reign everything in. The script focuses on what it means to be caught in a confined space with people reacting to their own mistakes, and the yacht provides a great stage for this. I love movies that have a good sense of space, and I can tell you every inch of this yacht and locate every weapon, every potential hiding spot. The rifle is locked in the bedroom. The one set of knives is on the counter sheathed in a wooden block, and casually changes hands a number of times.

The yacht is also such a confined space that it locks the camera down a bit more than your usual thriller. The camera is still and smart, sometimes craning off of the boat to give us a tableau. I also love movies that can make normal objects absolutely terrifying. A game of pool becomes suddenly suspenseful when you know the 8-ball is loaded with explosives. "Donkey Punch" isn't quite interested in normal objects, but they sure are idiosyncratic -- a flare gun, for example, has many uses.

This is definitely a modern genre movie about modern types of people. Modern not because of their combination of irresponsibility and sexual promiscuity -- that's timeless. Rather because of the style of their frankness and the sex acts that set off their descent. Will the movie or its characters age well? I don't know. But for now I know them and I dislike them in the best way.

No comments: