The first rule about shooting a man in the chest club? You do not talk… ah you know it by now don’t you?
Writer/director Ken Sanzel invites us into the murky underworld of high risk adrenaline junkies who get their kicks from shooting weapons at eachother. It’s all perfectly safe. They’re wearing bulletproof vests. That is the world of Blunt Force Trauma. True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten plays John. John is a man who seemingly had the perfect/boring life. Good job, a relationship until he discovered the world of the gunfights and now like a crack addict he’s constantly in search of the next hit.
Around the circuit he bumps into the delightfully named Colt (Freida Pinto) with who he shares a bit of history. She is on the trail of the man who killed her brother in one of the illegal gunfights. Well if you partake in illegal gunfights accidents will happen. They join forces to find the man and this eventually leads them to the Mickey Rourke who is apparently playing a man called Zorringer but I’m not sure Mickey Rourke knew he was actually in a film.
The name and marketing suggest a hard-edge action thriller with megatons of violence and gunplay. It’s closer to say that Blunt Force Trauma is a slow burn drama with elements of mystery. Not very intriguing mystery but it’s implied. What the film is in reality is a road-trip that John and Colt take and we follow in their pursuit of Zorringer. Along the way they stop for some gunfights, get into trouble with cops and become romantically involved. Rourke who is heavily touted does not appear until the final 10 minutes. His character and arrival seems to be the film’s crown jewel. What we actually get though is a once great actor turning up in his own clothes and spouting long Tarantino-esque monologues about regret and killing. Stuff we’ve all heard before then.
Ultimately Blunt Force Trauma is a frustrating oddity. Opening with an incessant banging of beer cans on concrete and a rate that rivals the ringing phone in Once Upon a Time in America, it’s an atmospheric beginning. The situation is alien and the world looks grim. Sanzel the director looks like he has a great eye and some scenes are intense beauty to them. The world of the illegal gunfights is also a fascinating one which opens an entire world of death wish philosophy and tense cinema. It all ends up feeling hugely flat.
Ryan Kwanten’s performance is committed. So committed though that his dull “everyman” John is just that… dull. He’s all stares and grimace without much room for apathy. Pinto doesn’t fair much better in a role that is basically summed up with “I want the man who killed my brother” – good for you, got anything else we can care about. They talk back and forth, quite a lot, and stop occasionally to shoot some people with vests on. Even the occasional gunfights (gunfights without vests) seem lacking. Shot in an strangely documentary style they lack punch.
Then the dialogue attempts to delve under the skin of what would make a person choose to do this kind of thing. Who would get their kicks from shooting guns at people? The answer it seems is people bored with life and maniacs. Huh. Shocking. It’s all pretty hamfisted musings and lacklustre dialogue holding no great revelations.
So essentially Blunt Force Trauma doesn’t really work as psychological drama and doesn’t work as an action thriller. To it’s credit though it tries to do something different by incorporating the two in a road movie package. It has to be said when it comes to the final showdown between Kwanten and Rourke that you genuinely don’t know who will make it out alive. I would maybe even go so far to say it was “edge-of-your-seat thrills”. Okay it gets an extra point for that.
Dir: Ken Sanzel
Scr: Ken Sanzel
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke
Prd: Eric Brenner, Gary Preisler
DOP: Paulo Andres Perez
Music: Darren Jackson
Run time: 90 mins
Blunt Force Trauma is available on DVD and Digital from 5 October 2015.