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For the Sake of Vicious review – ugly home-invasion thriller whose title says it all

Phil Hoad
·2-min read

Ultraviolence is too often seen as a cinematic end in itself – but the results are often ugly, boring, or both. This Canadian home-invasion thriller falls into this trap, so ferociously focused on the scent of blood that it double-kneecaps one character not once but twice: by hammer, then by gunshot. But given that co-director Gabriel Carrer’s past credits include Kill, The Demolisher, and Death on Scenic Drive, we probably shouldn’t be expecting The Bridges of Madison County here.

Related: Does Lars von Trier’s ‘vomitive’ new film spell the end for provocative cinema?

The film starts as a mysterious and alarmingly claustrophobic three-hander: nurse Romina (Lora Burke) knocks off a long Halloween shift and comes home to find that wild-eyed Chris (Nick Smyth) has taken her landlord Alan (Colin Paradine) hostage. Chris claims Alan raped his daughter five years ago; the courts let it slide, and he wants to extract the confession that will justify him taking the ultimate revenge. “This kitchen is not a courthouse, and I am not a clerk,” says Romina. But adjudicating the truth is exactly what she must do – potentially enraging Chris, on the shortest of leashes and who may be projecting his own misdeeds on the man hogtied to a chair.

Sadly, when Alan manages to call in outside help, the film drops this high-tension triangle and lets slip the dogs of gore. This squanders some impressively unhinged acting by Smyth, alternating between a rigid thousand-mile stare and surges of raving abandon that suggest an out-of-body experience. One early, promising scene in which Sarah resuscitates Alan with one hand while sweet-talking her son on the phone with the other showcases all the tension lost in the glassy-eyed – and sometimes illogically staged – bloodbath that takes over. The daft title tries to promise splatterhouse brazenness, but actually fesses up to the film’s lack of imagination.

  • For the Sake of Vicious is released on 19 April on digital platforms.