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Resurrection of a Bastard, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Makes me wonder what the non-bastard got out of the deal."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2013 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I'm not quite sure that Guido van Driel achieves everything he sets out to do with "The Resurrection of a Bastard"; it's the kind of movie that adds crime and magic realism and doesn't necessarily get something that comes together as a story. The end result is never anything less than striking, at least, and there's at least one fantastic performance to be seen in the lead role.

That role would be Ronnie B. (Yorick van Wageningen), who has arrived along with driver Janus (Juda Goslinga) in Dakkum, Friesland (one of the northern provinces of the Netherlands) to find a man despite not knowing anything about him aside from that he had the name of the town tattooed on his arm. The thing is, Ronnie used to be different - a horrifyingly violent enforcer for gangster James Joyce (Jeroen Willems) - but since regaining consciousness from the incident that put him in his neck brace, he's actually treated other people decently and seeing things that no-one else does. Is it connected to African refugee Eduardo (Goua Robert Grovogui), himself plagued by strange dreams?

That's a bit of a tricky question, actually. I don't think it would be all that difficult to take Eduardo out of the movie entirely; for as good as many of his scenes are, they tend to either be good in a way that doesn't have anything to do with the rest of the movie, or they're used to try and add spiritual heft to the story that it doesn't earn. Sure, so the images in his head and those in Ronnie's fit together. Why? What's it mean for him? As good as Grovogui is in the role, and what an interesting character he appears to be (a big, friendly guy carrying around some serious anxiety), he exists so that an image associated with him can mean a little more when the audience sees it in the end.

Plus, while Grovogui is good, Yorick van Wageningen is extraordinary. Sure, some of that's contrast - ask an actor to do two polar opposites as part of the same performance, and it makes a much bigger impression than if he did it in two separate movies - but "the old Ronnie" is a pretty spectacular performance. Sure, it's a showy one, with van Driel dreaming up a sick showcase of just what a bastard he was, but the bits where he plays off that - just seeming ferociously angry for no reason when watching TV with his wife and colleagues, or cowed when brought in to speak to James Joyce - build on it, and there's just enough of him in the new Ronnie to make the transformation interesting.

The story surrounding that transformation is not an epic, but van Driel and fellow screenwriter Bas Blokker tell it well. It's a mishmash of pulp and something a little more humanistic, with grisly violence on the one hand and a look at how the survivors of that live on the other. The crooks are a memorable lot, whether it's the careful malevolence of Jeroen Willems's James Joyce or the confusion of Goslinga's Janus. The story is put together out of chronological order, and sometimes is a bit more confusing than it needs to be as a result, although it might be kind of dull if linear.

It's never dull to look at, though. In addition to co-writing the screenplay and directing, Guido van Driel wrote the graphic novel that the movie is based upon, and there's not a doubt in my mind that much of the imagery in the film comes directly from that book. It's not a showy feeling of freeze-framed panel-matching as much as it is a clear eye for a striking image or a repeated design. Heck, just the facial hair he gives the characters indicates a guy who knows how to use every one of his visual tools.

Not that great mustaches and beards trump certain shortcuts this movie takes; theyr'e just an example of how Guido van Driel wasn't taking any detail particularly lightly when putting "The Resurrection of a Bastard" together. It's meticulously-enough realized that it's entirely possible that there's more going on in that area of the story than just that synchronicity which everyone seems to like.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25427&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/02/13 15:15:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2013 Fantastic Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Denver Film Festival For more in the 2013 Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 European Union Film Festival For more in the 2014 European Union Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Nashville Film Festival For more in the 2014 Nashville Film Festival series, click here.

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