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Packing, Something Besides a Punch

MOVIE REVIEW
Donkey Punch (2008)

6
Magnet Releasing

“Donkey Punch” is a nasty little thriller that might have worked had it tempered its propensity for outrageous brutality. Gruesome violence certainly has its places in the movies, but only in a very particular context. Here, the bursts of it come completely out of nowhere, and are rendered in such an over-the-top fashion that one would be forgiven for confusing Olly Blackburn’s suspense tale with Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive.” It’s an odd, atonal combination that torpedoes the pointless picture.

The movie opens with three female friends from Britain invited on board a private yacht by some handsome, well-dressed men. The girls flirt with the guys, partying happens, drugs and alcohol emerge and soon enough clothes come off. Treading carefully, as the critic’s job is not to ruin the audience’s fun, lets simply say that an accident occurs and soon enough a mini-sex orgy becomes a violent one.

Certainly, as an exercise in careful, productive filmmaking amidst an enclosed, limited setting, “Donkey Punch” earns admiration. Mr. Blackburn and cinematographer Nanu Segal successfully make the yacht seem larger and more vibrant a place than it actually is by framing shots from the far end of the ship’s hallway, incorporating establishing long shots of the boat and slowly gliding the camera throughout to give an impression of grandeur. As the events of the day unfold the location starts turning sinister, becoming caked in darkness. Additionally, the screenplay by Mr. Blackburn and David Bloom makes use of every inch of the yacht, with scenes set on deck, in the engine room and everywhere in between. The locale convinces as both a place to hide and one that’s too confining to do so.

If only that was enough. If only it were possible to actually be truly, fully entertained by a film that at first appears headed towards some despicably misogynistic territory before finally settling in as basically a glorified genre exercise. The narrative transforms into a battle of the sexes, pitting the boys against the girls in a perverse contest of wills punctured by murders so ridiculously carried out they inspire peals of laughter. On one hand the filmmaker lurches towards a story about the deceptive, paranoid sides of human nature and the dangers of unabashed hedonism. On the other, he sends one character after another with a live, spare motor. The film needed to go one way or the other, but Mr. Blackburn is content to fulfill the old cliché by having his cake and eating it too.

DONKEY PUNCH

Opens on Jan. 23 in Manhattan.

Directed by Olly Blackburn; written by David Bloom and Mr. Blackburn; director of photography, Nanu Segal; edited by Kate Evans; music by François-Eudes Chanfrault; production designer, Delarey Wagener; produced by Angus Lamont, Robin Gutch and Mark Herbert; released by Magnet Releasing.  Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Robert Boulter (Sean), Sian Breckin (Lisa), Tom Burke (Bluey), Nichola Burley (Tammi), Julian Morris (Josh), Jay Taylor (Marcus) and Jamie Winstone (Kim).

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