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MORTAL ENGINES (December 22, 2018)

Thursday, 10 May 2018

DVD Of The Week: Rendel - Dark Vengeance (2017)


I've been enthusing about Rendel since 2014 and the movie is finally in my hands.

So did it meet expectations? Did it justify all the years of hype?

In part, yes.

Finland's first full-length superhero movie - renamed Rendel: Dark Vengeance for its American release, which is how I acquired it - runs the gamut from black humour to savage brutality in its tale of a man driven to seek revenge on the gangsters that killed his family.

That he happens to throw a spanner in the works of their drug dealing operations is a happy co-incidence.

To be honest, it's not 100 per cent clear what the evil VALA corporation is doing, or what the Nh25 vaccine that they are controlling is really for.

There's something about failed, grizzly, experiments on African children, but this is never elaborated upon and fleeting suggestions of bribery being used to get the vaccine to market (although for what purpose, and who the target market is, remains unclear).

It's also never explaind how our silent anti-hero Rendel (Kris Gummerus) suddenly acquires - almost overnight - the mad fighting skills that allow him to take out legions of VALA goons and a crack squad of international mercenaries.

Or how he eats...

Written by Pekka Lehtosaari, Miika J. Norvanto and Timo Puustinen, but based on characters created by director Jesse Haaja, there's an inescapable feeling in Rendel: Dark Vengeance that Haaja was too close to the project, and too in love with his main character, to possibly realise that the audience might need more clarification of what's going on.

On the whole, the script is solid, cleverly interweaving and interconnecting two main narratives in two different time frames, that give us Rendel's "origin story" and his motivation, as well as a series of violent conflicts as the masked vigilante works his way through VALA's criminal operations.

As street-level superheroics go, Rendel: Dark Vengeance is Arrow with more f-bombs and graphic violence rather than a brightly-lit Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster.

I suspect the project's entire budget was a fraction of what Robert Downey Jr gets paid just to turn up on the set of an Avengers movie.

Heavy on atmosphere, with some smart, surreal touches, Rendel: Dark Vengeance teases its audience with plenty of potential in the character of Rendel - from his mask, for instance, which is incredibly sculpted to the influence of his "guardian angel" (Alina Tomnikov).

The exact specifics of his abilities, however, are rather vague (as are a lot of specifics in the movie).

The mid-credit scene clearly sets itself up for a sequel, and I, for one, wouldn't mind a return visit to the crime-ridden and corrupt Finnish city of Mikkeli... if only to learn something more substantial about our titular anti-hero, beyond the tragedy that drives him.

Given the enforced taciturn nature of his persona, future encounters with Rendel would probably need to told from the antagonists' point of view or, at least, someone else within Rendel's circle of contacts, such as the journalist Niina (Minna Nevanoja).

I know some people still don't grok subtitles, but I have a soft spot for multi-lingual films, even if the English subtitles were a bit hit and miss, for that added element of verisimilitude in our ever-shrinking, multi-cultural world.

As the pilot episode of an ongoing saga Rendel: Dark Vengeance just about manages to pass muster on its sheer bravado, with enough unique twists on some pretty clichéd comic book tropes to paper over the majority of its shortcomings.

This isn't going to convert anyone to the genre, but fans of low-budget action-adventure, vigilante justice flicks should be able to find enough here to keep them entertained for an hour and three-quarters.

2 comments:

  1. Do they explain how he got one of Deathstroke's outfits?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mask is "key part" of his "powers", the jacket is a biker jacket his wife and daughter gave him as a Father's Day present, and the trousers are - as far as I can recall - just trousers ;-)

      Delete

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