QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TALLINN
It’s winter and two men dig the ground of a small town somewhere in the United States. Their shovel hits something, and they hear a faint human grunting. A person has been buried alive. The two males allow the mouth to breathe, even sharing a cheeky cigarette with the unfortunate person whose identify is not revealed (we never see the rest of their face). This quirky blend of violence and humour sets the tone for the 115-minute revenge thriller that’s about to follow. A story of corruption, large ransoms, and with countless twists. The landscape, the atmosphere and the topic choice might bring Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1996) to mind.
We are then introduced to Mrs Hunter, nicknamed “G”, a tough and wrinkly 72-year-old grandma (played by Dale Dickey of American drama series Breaking Bad). Alongside with her husband, she has been kidnapped and tortured by ruthless fraudsters, who earn a living by forcing vulnerable pensioners into care and taking control of their earnings and possessions by acting as their legal guardians. We are told that actions of this type are widespread on American soil (Britney Spears’s conservatorship anyone?). The justice system gives the criminals a little hand by endorsing their activities. Lawlessness prevails in this derivative tale of vigilantism and redemption. Director Karl R. Hearne says the film is based on real-life elder scams, and inspired by his own grandmother, however there is not a trace of social realism in the story. Don’t expect a critique of capitalism, or a profound portrayal of marginalised Americans. The shocking injustice is used as a mere narrative device for a very conventional thriller.
Dickey is the biggest highlight of the film, her stern gaze bursting with quiet determination. G is neither warm nor grandmotherly. She is a very confident woman of few words, her tongue as sharp as a knife. She claims to be a “socialite” when questioned about her profession, the many lines on her face and her cheap attire suggesting otherwise. Her previous hardships are printed on her scrawny and gnarled body. Her captors unsuccessfully attempt to convince her that she is “the problem”, and that not even her husband likes her, but they fail tremendously. Their manipulation technique quickly escalates into overt extortion: the evil men beat G and her husband in order to locate a large sum of the money, which the elderly couple insists does not exist. Other care home residents seem to suffer a similar fate: the arms of an elderly woman in the mysterious room next door are covered in bruises.
G’s unladylike attitude has earned her few friends, in a misogynistic and ageist society that dismisses an empowered old woman as “useless” and “angry”. The G succeeds at exposing the subtle and also the not-so-subtle mechanisms utilised in order to oppress women and old people, particularly those marginalised and neglected. G resorts to her pretty, caring and seemingly brittle granddaughter Emma (Romane Denis) for help. The two women take matters into their own hands, as the movie quickly slips into gun-can-solve-all-problems territory. Pistols are the only currency in this familiar battle of “good” versus “bad” guys. And bullets are the best solution. Multiple bullets are even better, just in case. Only the cold-blooded and ruthless shall succeed. Hardly a subversive message to gun-worshipping Americans, and a film industry used to romanticising and fetishising violence. You’ve seen it all before a million times before.
In a nutshell: a carefully crafted and finely-acted drama/thriller that slips into trivial bang-bang. Couldn’t granny have found another way to exact revenge on her torturers?
The G just premiered at the Official Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.