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Film Review: Absolute Evil

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
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Berlin International Film Festival --  Panorama
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BERLIN -- At least once every festival, critics collectively scratch their heads and say "How did THAT get selected?" "Absolute Evil" is the tentative awardee for worst film at this year's Berlinale. Shot in an ugly digital format (not HD) that is often out of focus, the stock thriller structure also sports horribly cliched, repetitive dialogue, dramatic "gestures" that we've seen a thousand times, and very bad performances (with the exception of David Carradine, who seems to be having the time of his life). Commercial prospects, aside from a few DVD buyers who might be seeking campy entertainment, seem quite remote.

Savannah (Neff) is haunted by the nightmare of seeing her father gunned down in front of her as a child and, after running away from her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, to Southern California, finally decides to return home to confront her demons. She hooks up with Cooper (Joiner), a spectacularly muscled young stud who also goes by the name "Babyface." Complications ensue but are so complicated, and even inexplicable, that any attempt at plot summary must stop here.

It's quite possible that director Lommel is performing this entire exercise with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. It's sometimes hard to tell with Europeans who so blindly love American genre movies. But even if this were the case, the film, self-mocking or straight, is quite simply excruciating to watch. Thus, for example, the photography is so bad that in any scene in which a window is included in the frame, faces are darkened to the point of obscurity by the out-of-control contrast ratio. The sound also is quite unprofessional and is less good than that usually found in amateur porn shoots or student shorts.

To add a bit of German Weltschmertz to the proceedings, mournful cellos occasionally play classical music, but rather than deepen the meaning of what we're seeing, these touches only reinforce our sense of how silly the whole thing is. The highlight of the film is a waterboarding scene that is cut back to over and over again, as one hard-to-place character tortures another to gain even more nonsensical information.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Production: Nicky Lombard Prods.
Cast: David Carradine, Carolyn Neff, Rusty Joiner
Director-screenwriter: Ulli Lommel
Producer: Nola Roeper, Ulli Lommel
Director of photography: Jonathan M. Risinger
Production designer: Patricia Devereaux
Music: Robert J. Walsh
Costume designer: Helga Marr
Editor: Brian Lopiano, Christian Behm, Frank Schonfelder
Sales: None
No rating, 80 minutes