Thursday, 14 October 2010



Revenge seems to be the current Big Thing. At FrightFest we had the shiny new version of I Spit On Your Grave and The Tortured, there's the recent The Final, and in the same envelope as 7 Days they also sent me Johnnie To's vengeance-themed thriller that's actually called Vengeance. It's an old theme and it's always worth delving into and poking around in; it's just that sometimes it's used purely as a justification for sadistic violence being inflicted upon the apparent villains. How much is too much? Is it ever enough? When does it stop being justice, when does the avenger become the bad guy? At what point are we supposed to stop siding with the good guys?

7 Days is a Canadian/French film in which Bruno Hamel, a well-off, middle-class surgeon, is so devastated by the rape and murder of his little daughter that he takes the paedophile scumbag responsible to a remote cottage and tortures him. While the police struggle to locate him (though they're not actually that bothered about what happens to the scumbag), he claims that he'll give himself up after seven days - on what would have been the child's ninth birthday. In the meantime, he gets to work with sledgehammers, curare and a spot of bowel surgery.

It's done coldly, without gloss or glamour; there's not a note of music even over the credits, and the brief spells of violence are unfliching and nasty. Unlike The Tortured, which also had grieving parents doing crowd-pleasingly horrible things to the man they judged to be guilty of a similar crime, this is far less interested in even the most questionably exploitatative approach: this is not about pleasing the crowd. Rather, it's very matter-of-fact and, deliberately, it's hard to empathise with either captive or captor. When Hamel hears that the mother of one of the murderer's other young victims does not approve of his actions, he kidnaps her in an effort to make her understand. For much of the time the loathsome pervert, chained up and crippled in the back room, is incidental. There's also Hamel's sense of guilt that, by chance, he didn't know his daughter was missing until, perhaps, it was too late.

7 Days is really not a film you can like; you can perhaps admire the way it's been made. On that level I'm not that comfortable about it as I'm not entirely sure I get the point. It's well done, convincingly enough performed and the scenes of violence are undeniably unpleasant. But while I think it's designed to leave you cold, I don't actually want to be left cold. It's very good at creating an effect I don't much care for. Worth seeing but it is a pretty tough watch.


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