VOD film review: Landmine Goes Click
Treatment of women5
Matthew Turner | On 07, Mar 2016
Director: Levan Bakhia
Cast: Sterling Knight, Spencer Locke, Dean Geyer, Girogi Tsaava, Nika Apriashvill
Directed by Levan Bakhia (who made locked-in-a-sauna thriller 247F), Landmine Goes Click is a Georgian film made mostly in English that begins as an intriguing trapped-in-a-single-place suspense flick and slowly evolves into something much darker. As such, Bakhia’s film is not without its problematic moments, but the result is an effective, tense, genuinely horrifying film that has something to say about both male aggression and revenge.
The film opens with American Chris (Knight) back-packing through the beautiful Georgian countryside with engaged couple Daniel (Geyer) and Alicia (Locke). Soon, we learn that Chris and Alicia have recently slept with each other and have differing views on whether they should tell Daniel, but that gets thrown into perspective when Chris accidentally steps on a landmine (which does indeed go click – you can’t say this film doesn’t deliver on the promise of its title) and is informed that if he moves, he’ll be blown to smithereens.
Things quickly get worse for Chris, as Daniel reveals that he knew all about their indiscretion and that he has set the whole thing up, whereupon he promptly leaves, after tossing Alicia a spade and telling her to dig a trench that Chris can throw himself into as the mine goes off. However, that’s nothing compared to what happens when the panicked pair are joined by Ilya (Kote Tolordava), a leering, middle-aged Georgian native who quickly sizes up the situation and offers to help in return for a series of escalating sexual favours from Alicia, with Chris powerless to do anything but stand and watch.
Bahkia extracts maximum tension and horror from his set-up, prolonging the inevitable over an excruciating period of time before the dreaded rape scene, which runs deliberately long, with the intention of making the audience as helpless, as sickened and as angry as Chris. This feeds into the film’s unexpected second act, where one of the characters tracks Ilya to his home and embarks on a vicious revenge involving Ilya’s wife and daughter (Nana Kiknadze and Helen Nelson), who are unaware of his crimes.
It’s here that the film’s true purpose is revealed – a complex exploration of vengeance that the audience initially thinks it wants, a bit like being forced to identify with the two intruders in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. As such, Bahkia achieves his goal, as shown in the powerful final shot. It’s not an original idea for a revenge film to reach the conclusion that vengeance is an ultimately futile and soul-destroying gesture, but Landmine takes that idea to its logical extreme with impressive results.
The performances are impressive throughout, particularly Knight, who has to walk a tricky balancing act of being sympathetic enough for the audience to be on his side, yet complicating that identification by, for example, antagonising Ilya and possibly making an already awful situation worse.
The problem with the film is that the abuse of the three women is treated primarily as a motivating factor for the men and while that may be the film’s main point – that it’s forcing us to see them through the tainted, macho viewpoint of Chris and Ilya – Bakhia doesn’t make that idea clear enough in the direction and script to excuse what we see on screen.