(A.k.a. 3 [original title])
A middle-aged doctor (Mike Stanley) drives down a lonely lane late one evening, trying to find a new patient's address via the GPS app on his 'phone. He comes to a halt when he's confronted by an abandoned car blocking his path. Upon closer inspection the doctor notices the key is still in the car's ignition, and furtively prepares to move the obstructing vehicle.
As he sits himself behind the wheel, the doctor is alarmed to see a man in a white mask appear in the headlights' glare. Moments later, doc is unconscious ... when he next awakens, he'll be shackled in the basement of a remote country house.
His kidnapper is never named in the film, and the credits refer to his character as simply "He" (Todd Bruno). He - the character - has conducted this abduction on behalf of the demure She (Aniela McGuinness). It soon transpires that this pair, who are not known publicly as having any connection whatsoever, have meticulously plotted this kidnapping (their friendship remains secret [at this stage even we, the audience, are kept in the dark as to why He wants to help bring She's rapist to justice]; alibis are in place; a false address was used to lure the doctor to a supposed agoraphobic patient's home) in the hope of extracting a confession from the bewildered therapist. See, she was raped at a party a year earlier and believes the doctor was the aggressor.
The following morning, when the doctor wakes, he's greeted by He in his snazzy white mask. He sets up a video camera pointing at the doctor and advises him of his crime. The doctor protests his innocence and insists that he left the party early, something his wife has already confirmed to the police. But He is having none of it: his investigations have revealed that the doctor purchased a new tyre the day after the rape, suggesting he got a flat tyre upon leaving the party and therefore arrived home much later than his wife had claimed.
The doctor insists of his innocence. Which leads He to progress to the second level: he gleams She for more details of the rape (cue a brief flashback) and then prepares to put some skills he learned while serving as an army medic in Iraq. Yes, the second level is ... torture.
He's torture tactics aren't too severe to begin with. Suffocation with Clingfilm to the point of unconsciousness; pouring a bucket of ice over his sleeping subject's head. And, to be fair, these do elicit a confession of sorts: the doctor admits that he did suffer a flat tyre on the night of the rape, and as a consequence he did get home much later than he and his wife had stated. It looked bad, so they covered up this minor detail. But he did not rape She, he still insists.
Hmm. She and He are not satisfied. So it's time for He to up the ante. While She is concerned about hurting the doctor, He has no such qualms: that's what you get when you suffer from PTSD and are prone to violent outbursts. Which spells out bad news for the increasingly worried doctor. No wonder he tries to escape upon the first opportunity.
In the meantime, He begins to doubt his actions - and memory - when She's story starts to reveal inconsistencies. In particular, she's now saying that He was present at the party too. Was He really there? And why are there are two dead bodies already hidden in this house's basement?
3 is a really tight, intelligent and satisfyingly unpredictable film. It copes with its low budget by virtue of attractive HD photography, adroit editing, a keen sense of atmosphere thanks largely to the persuasively grimy basement setting, and a small cast of highly reliable, relatable actors. Oh, and writer-director Lou Simon's ferociously original script. While flirting with rape-revenge and torture-porn, Simon subverts expectations and keeps this entire 81-minute endeavour focused more on human interaction and the twists that evolve as a result.
This is a film about trauma. About pain. About blocking out the bad memories and the emotional confusion that stems from such a strategy. About acceptance, guilt, blame, shame, suffering and reliance upon fellow sufferers to help us through our darkest hours. 3 doesn't fuck about; it may start off a tad shakily, but it quickly settles into a taut machine propelled by coiled direction, a superb script and three unusually committed actors.
Bruno (who also produced the film) is especially good, conveying a whole host of emotions with startling conviction and success. His is a complex character, but he nails it. Stanley, too, takes a potentially loathsome character and convinces us to sympathise with him. Not easy to do, but he's admittedly aided by Simon's frank, humanistic and agreeably challenging screenplay.
I really enjoyed 3 and would recommend it as a fresh spin on the over-saturated rape-revenge genre. It has its moments of violence and doesn't shy away from crude detail ("I can still feel his cum dripping down my legs"), and yet it manages to defy expectations and investigate more psychological territory. How do victims process and deal with whatever transgression has been committed against them? What support do they have?
The film is being released by Uncork'd Entertainment as a VOD title, and we were sent an online screener for review purposes. It looks magnificent in a clean, pin-sharp and vibrant HD presentation which respects the film's original 16x9 framing. English 2.0 audio is also gratifyingly problem-free.
Keenly shot, nicely scored and thought-provoking from the off, 3 is also blessed with sterling central performances and a twist I genuinely didn't see coming, I heartily recommend it.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Uncork'd Entertainment|