‘Blame’ – Movie Review

There are not a lot of movies shot in WA, and when a new one is released I want to like it. Honest, I do. Unfortunately, Blame has only three redeeming features (and I’m trying hard, folks): the trailer, the camerawork and the setting in the Perth hills. Otherwise, on every level it’s almost unbelievably awful. Dog of the Year awful.

The opening is promising. A piano teacher, Bernard (Damian de Montemas), drives up to his rustic home among the gum trees of Roleystone, throws a stick for his pet pooch to collect and goes inside. When the dog fails to follow or respond when called, Bernard senses something amiss, creepy music comes in and the tension is tightened to snapping point. Wham! He is floored with a flying tackle from the side, and while you knew something like that was coming, you jump in your seat nevertheless, happy to go along for the ride. This is the sort of thing you want out of a thriller, right?

Unfortunately, that’s all the thrilling you get! The rest is a confused mess of cliche, plot holes, excruciatingly clumsy exposition, and truly godawful dialogue. The buck stops with writer/director Michael Henry. I swear on the hallowed name of Robert McKee, first year undergraduate Creative Writing classes turn out better shit than this.

Indeed, the very premise of the movie is dodgy: 30-something Bernard is the intended murder victim of a group of younger vigilantes who hold him responsible for the recent suicide of their friend, his ex-lover. Musta been one helluva crap relationship, since they’d broken up 3 years ago. OK, three of the vigilante group include the dead girl’s sister (Kestie Morassi), best friend (Sophie Lowe) and boyfriend (can’t recall who) whose drive for vengeance might be allowable, but would all three be so crazed by grief and lust for revenge as to go to the extreme of commiting murder? And what about their other two male companions? Murder is a high stakes game. Outside war, the underworld and the psycho ward, what sort of context could account for a 5 member vigilante squad? Surely not the suicide of a heart-broken friend who can’t let go of a past relationship!

Whatever. Thrillers always have their internal logic flaws. Problem is this one has so bloody many of ’em, and they gape wide enough to drive a truck through.

The vigilantes are a well-garbed mob, the guys wearing suits and the gals power-dressed in good-lookin’ boardroom gear. Why? Seems they’ve just attended the suicide girl’s funeral. But wouldn’t you change into something more, ahem, mission-appropriate before embarking on yer vigilante hit? Could the writer be using clothing as some sort of demographic signifier? Beyond hamfisted, if so. Or could he have taken his stylistic sartorial cues from Michael Haneke’s abominable but brilliantly made Funny Games? Why would he do that? Too many questions without plausible answers. But they don’t stop here…

These guys are ambitious for first-time killers: they’ve planned the ‘perfect murder’ (oh, these over-confident Gen Yers). Why, then, do they saunter around Bernard’s house with unhurried abandon, not wearing gloves and touching everything in sight? Indeed, one of the girls even has a wistful tinkle at poor old Bernard’s piano as he lays bound and dying on the floor of his bedroom with a gutful of force-fed sleeping pills. Fingerprints, kids, fingerprints!

Of course, they’ve got that covered. Once Bernard passes out, they set about wiping away all trace of their presence. Talk about making life hard for yerself. The piano keys are an especially demanding clean…and jeez, a bit suspicious that a piano teacher’s keys would be free of fingerprints, innit? The big clanger comes when they compose a suicide note on Bernard’s laptop then wipe those keys down (meticulous, these suicidal types)! And if the murder is so well planned, wouldn’t they have had the laptop note composed beforehand, instead of nutting it out on the spot? You hope their discussion on the spelling of “their” (“Isn’t it ‘i’ after ‘e’ except after ‘c’?”, quoths one of the gals in defence of her spelling error) is intended as a moment of levity, but I wasn’t so sure. There were plenty of ‘serious’ parts that were funnier.

Their big bungle, though, is leaving a mobile phone behind. So, on the road traversing the conveniently scenic Serpentine Dam, they turn around amid much raucous blame-throwing and head back to the scene of the crime. Make that ‘would-be’ crime. See, tricky old Bernard has disappeared! “What the fuck?” screams Simon Stone as a variation on his already well-established refrain of “Shut the fuck up!” (must have been a cinch for him learning his lines). The buffoon who sourced the sleeping pills (Ashley Zukerman) produces the bottle and realises he’d mistakenly picked up low-strength pediatric ones! See what happens when you don’t read labels? No wuckers, though. They have the rest of the movie to track down Bernard and kill him another way.

Proceedings sink to a ludicrous new low when two of the blokes stand in the shed lamenting the paucity of murder weapons, as they gaze at a wall hung with hammers, wrenches and crowbars. Where’s yer imagination, kiddies? Shit, there’s even a circular saw! Sadly, all this potential for turning an unintended farce of a ‘thriller’ into a splatterflick is passed up when they discover a rifle complete with shells. The only hope for a script as stupid as this was to go the black comedy route, but alas the opportunity comes and goes…

That’ll do. To go on would be cruel. What can I say? There must have been some positives. How about the performances? I’m tempted to declare the dog the standout, but that would be just nasty. Damian de Montemas was competent, the rest weren’t much. To be fair, the material they had to work with was so dire that no good could come of it as an actor. This is one to leave off the CVs.

Really, you’ve got to wonder about the credibility of those who make the decisions at the funding bodies that dipped into the kitty in support of this dross. Aspiring screenwriters who have had half-decent scripts knocked back by ScreenWest et al can be excused for feeling pissed and ripped off.

For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

2 thoughts on “‘Blame’ – Movie Review”

  1. Thanks for this review. Couldn’t agree more. And to say the writer/ director must be a fan of the movie The Edukators would be an understatement since even though the premise is different, he has ripped off dialogue and entire scenes. Surely I’m not the only person who sees the similarities… Aussie cinema should be better than this…

  2. Hi Juliette, and thanks for your comment.

    I haven’t seen The Edukators, so can’t respond usefully to your observations there. I certainly share the view you express in your parting sentence. And I don’t think Stratton and Pomeranz do the local industry any favours in pussyfooting around and erring on the side of extreme generosity in their appraisal of Aussie films. Some tough love required in instances like these, not cooing words of praise where it’s clearly not due.

    There have been some tremendous Aussie films in recent years. Surely we’re now mature enough to call the crap for what it is. In not doing so, we’re actually devaluing the good stuff. Acclaim should be reserved for the deserving only.


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