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1 review, 3 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"A strong enough cast to overcome its infamous director."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: You know, if Uwe Boll keeps directing movies as watchable as "Tunnel Rats" and "Stoic", he may lose the "worst director ever" tag. "Stoic" is not a great movie, but it's certainly watchable enough, though it's also plain to see that it could have been even better in the hands of a really good director.

It opens with Mitch Palmer (Shaun Sipos), a prison inmate, found hanged in his cell. An unseen investigator questions his three cellmates: Tearful Harry (Edward Furlong), defiant Peter (Sam Levinson), and icy Jack (Steffen Mennekes). As each tells their story - either truthfully or in lies - a narrative starts to emerge, starting with Mitch trying to back out of a poker bet and continually escalating as the other inmates begin bullying him to put him in his place.

The credits for this movie on the IMDB have some odd but noteworthy omissions: There's no writer listed, although the closing titles start with "Directed, Written, and Produced by Uwe Boll". Supposedly much of the movie was improvised, so it's understandable that the screenplay credits would be a bit vague. If that's the case, though, it might be nice to know who the editor was, as the film does wind up being fairly well put-together on that count. It's not flashy, but given that improvisation often provides a mountain of footage that can be hard to make into a single narrative, it's very solid.

In large part, this is because the actors give the rest of the filmmakers good material to work with. Edward Furlong is particularly impressive as Harry, who on the surface seems the closest thing the film has to a moral center but soon displays great weakness when confronted by both the investigators' questioning and, in flashback, his larger, likely more violent cellmates. It's rapidly apparent that he's the star of the movie, although his three main castmates play their less fleshed-out roles well: There's genuine menace from Levinson and Mennekes, although of different varieties - Mennekes's Jack is the quiet, hard one, methodical in how he handles the situation, while Levinson's Peter is taunting, seeming to dare others to give him a chance to mess them up. Sipos doesn't have much to do, being absent in the interrogation scenes and a target in the cell.

Watching Sipos's Mitch be abused is where Stoic starts to falter. It's ugly and violent as prison bullying should be, but it also seems to lack a certain element of horror, either at the events themselves or the banality of them. At a certain point, it seems like Boll and company are just running through a catalog of humiliations, and though the audience disapproves, it doesn't register at a truly visceral level. The filmmakers reveal some partially-withheld information at the end that should make everything more shocking, but even with that, it seems as though the film needs a little more context. It also feels as if the film wants to light a fire under someone, but doesn't have a specific target.

Indeed, "Stoic" wants to be a film that disturbs the audience without allowing them to look away. It's not quite that good; I looked away plenty. I always wound up looking back, though - the cast and the claustrophobic style is good enough to keep one's attention. Too bad the film isn't as good as it could have been, given that foundation.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19333&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/14/09 14:11:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/25/14 Jo I personally rate the film 4/5. I yelled all types of derogatory names at them. Great job. 4 stars
9/24/11 sbluntz actuallt furlong is harry...i watched it 10 minutes ago 3 stars
4/29/11 Tom Sorry have you actually seen this film??? Edward Furlong plays Jack, not Harry. Moron. 3 stars
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  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 13-Apr-2010

  N/A (18)
  DVD: 22-Jun-2009


Directed by
  Uwe Boll

Written by

  Edward Furlong
  Sam Levinson
  Steffen Mennekes
  Shaun Sipos

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