Thursday, September 17, 2015

#1,858. The Horseman (2008) - Spotlight on Australia

Directed By: Steven Kastrissios

Starring: Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy, Brad McMurray

Tag line: "He has some questions"

Trivia: To help raise finance for the production, a short film was shot of the opening scene. The short film went on to win Best Independent Drama (10-30mins) at the 2006 Queensland New Filmmaker Awards

When I first read the synopsis for The Horseman, it sounded a lot like the 1979 Paul Schrader-directed film Hardcore, in which a deeply religious Midwesterner (played by George C. Scott) receives a pornographic videotape starring his missing daughter, then travels to New York City to find her.

But after watching a few minutes of this 2008 Aussie film, I knew it was going to be a much different movie. Whereas Hardcore was ultimately about a father trying to bring his child home, The Horseman is a brutal motion picture featuring a grieving dad who, while searching for the truth, takes revenge on everyone responsible for his daughter’s demise.

After discovering that his runaway daughter Jesse (Hannah Levien) died of a drug overdose, Christian Forteski (Peter Marshall) receives an anonymous package in the mail, inside of which is a video containing a pornographic movie. To his horror, the “star” of the picture is Jesse, who, in an obvious drug-induced state, has sex with a trio of men.

Putting two and two together, Christian realizes Jesse died the very day she appeared in the film. In an effort to find out what happened, he hits the road, visiting those involved with the making of this video, and exacting his own brand of bloody justice on each and every one of them.

During his travels, he picks up a hitchhiker, an 18-year-old girl named Alice (Caroline Marohasy), who has also run away from home. Hoping to save her from a fate similar to Jesse’s, Christian offers Alice some fatherly advice, all the while making sure she has no idea what he’s up to.

Yet, despite his best intentions, Christian’s unednding thirst for vengeance eventually puts both he and Alice in harm’s way.

Peter Marshall delivers a searing performance as Christian, a man whose grief over his daughter’s death is matched only by his hatred for those who took advantage of her. In one key scene, he tracks down the video’s producer, Finn (Jack Henry), who he ties to a chair, demanding that he reveal the names of the actors in his movie. When Finn, who also works as a boxing promoter, refuses, Christian pulls the man’s pants down and, with the help of a bicycle pump, “convinces” him to start talking.

That is an uncomfortable scene, yet isn’t nearly as violent as some of Christian’s other encounters. One poor guy, who he had knocked out, wakes to find a few fishing hooks attached to a very tender part of his anatomy. In contrast, the sequences where he’s with Alice show us a different side of Christian, that of a father figure trying to help his young companion, and it’s to Marshall’s credit that he’s just as believable in these more tender scenes as when he’s beating the hell out of someone.

Apart from the strong performance turned in by its lead, The Horseman features a decent supporting cast and a wrinkle or two in its story that’s sure to take you by surprise. That said, I have to warn you that it is also an incredibly violent film. I cringed more than once watching Christian exact his revenge (though he himself is the victim of what, to me, is the movie’s single most upsetting moment of brutality).

I do recommend The Horseman. It’s a well-made, highly-engaging motion picture. But if torture and copious amounts of blood aren’t for you, you’ll be better off passing on it.

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