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Tank 432 (aka Belly of the Bulldog)
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by Jay Seaver

"A peculiar battlefield."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The man behind "Tank 432", Nick Gillespie, often runs a camera on Ben Wheatley's films, and I worry a bit that he's picked up a bit too much of Wheatley's "let the audience put things together on the fly" style, which only really works when what's going on emerges a bit earlier. He still makes a nifty little movie, though one that's more great bits than great whole.

In an unknown war zone sometime in the future, a small group is bringing two hooded prisoners back to headquarters, but they've come under fire: Capper (Michael Smiley) is injured, commanding officer Smith (Gordon Kennedy) is losing patience, scouts Gantz (Steve Garry) and Evans (Tom Meeten) are looking down at Reeves (Rupert Evans), and corspwoman Karlsson (Deirdre Mullins) is dispensing drugs to keep people leveled as much as dealing with injuries. There's biological weapons in play, a young girl (Alex Rose March) found in a cargo container, and the only escape route leads to an open field with a broken-down Bulldog tank in the middle. That gets the survivors cover, but unless they can get the thing moving...

Well, then they'll be stuck in an enclosed space, getting on each other's nerves and barking at each other but kind of in a holding pattern until something either happens outside or the situation inside comes to a boil, and while at least one of the two eventually happens, it's a tough downshift - the movie goes from being on the run, poking at this scenario where all manner of things could happen, and being at each other's throats to just being at each other's throats, and for a certain chunk of the audience, that's not necessarily the most interesting part of the film. A good deal of that other stuff gets pushed aside until a climax that is not necessarily the most satisfying way to resolve them.

Fortunately, when movies get down to people snapping at each other, they generally don't have so good an ensemble as this. Most of the entire group treats each other with at least low-level disdain, and while they don't ever talk much about their backgrounds - their existence before this maneuver is treated as utterly irrelevant - there's always a feeling of distrust on a fundamental level that doesn't need explaining. Michael Smiley and Gordon Kennedy get the really juicy, angry bits, but they come into sharper relief because of the relative timidity Rupert Evans gives Reeves without making him a wimp the audience is particularly inclined to dislike. April Pearson grabs a few nice scenes as the "cargo" when the bag finally comes off her head, and Deirdre Mullins does a nice job playing the capable, essential medic as potentially both stabilizing influence and breaking point.

As you might expect with a movie coming from someone known for working the camera, Tank 432 is very accomplished visually without it being showy - Gillespie and his crew do a great job of balancing the need to give characters their own space inside the tank with showing it as claustrophobic, never feeling too restricted inside. What's more interesting, though, is the way the film looks outside - much of the action happens at dusk or at night, or in the woods where there's a bit of a canopy, and it's the sort of gray, depressing palette that one expects from a movie set against a war that's gone on long enough that nobody talks about the time before, but every once in a while, something will happen in broad daylight, and the colors will be surprisingly vivid, and it's a temporary lift before one realizes that nothing has really changed. It's almost like seeing a mirage, an involuntary moment of false hope.

Evenutally, the film does get back to what's going on outside the tank, and it's a frustrating ending, one part familiar twist and one part hugely entertaining scene that nevertheless makes no sense. It's a finale whose explanations don't excite or intrigue very much, which is kind of deflating because watching the questions be set up and asked has been so satisfying.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=30566&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/07/16 23:25:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Nick Gillespie

Written by
  Nick Gillespie

  Rupert Evans
  Steve Garry
  Deirdre Mullins
  Michael Smiley
  Gordon Kennedy

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