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1 review, 4 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"The 'Airplane!' of rape-n-revenge movies"
1 stars

Sexual assault is a blindingly destructive force in desperate need of a cinematic treatment that takes the time to explore dark psychological responses and abyssal emotional cracks. “Descent” is the head-slappingly awful picture that turns rape into a comedy.

Maya (Rosario Dawson) is a bright college student, shy about love, but seeking a connection to another human being. At a party she meets Jared (Chad Faust, in an extravagantly abysmal performance), a greasy jock who is relentless with his come-ons. Falling under his caveman charms, she takes a chance on the drooling brute, leading to a romantic evening that culminates with her rape. Destroyed, Maya withdraws from her world, spending time in a complete drug-fueled fog. Only when the opportunity for revenge presents itself a year later does she begin to show signs of renewed life.

I’m sure there was a pure intention behind “Descent,” but the final product reeks of a bad idea that just lucked into production, where nobody dared raise their voice to stop it. The film takes a very troubling issue and instead of using the screen to chart a map of pain and anger, it bellyflops into stunningly preposterous domains of style and personal distance, doing a great disservice to the thematic reach of the material.

Director/co-writer Talia Lugacy isn’t pursuing a grindhouse revenge saga with “Descent,” yet perhaps that’s where this story needed to travel. Lugacy imagines herself a Kubrickian filmmaker, covering the action in extended takes that are meant to soak the viewer in the juices of the atmosphere, baiting them for the picture’s more jagged edges and uproariously one-dimensional characters. However, the movie mostly bores, taking years to realize dramatic corners that would only require seconds from a more competent filmmaker.

Maya’s tale of violence is a touchy one to explore, but I fail to understand why Lugacy wanted to employ hollow acts of humiliation to best extract a response from her lead character. It’s a familiar cycle of psychological shut-down, complete with drugs, distant looks, and social withdrawal. However, the director does nothing with the ingredients. She’s lost trying to conjure a neon-smacked mood of a soul shattered, leaning on Dawson’s icy detachment to best express Maya’s torment, but there’s nothing for this gifted actress to work with. She’s dutifully playing an empty shell in a film that lacks any emotional significance.

By the time Maya is gifted her opportunity to settle the score, “Descent” has tuckered out completely, leaving only one surefire weapon left in Lugacy’s arsenal: shock value. Oh, baby does “Descent” climax with a doozy of a punishment for Jared, but it’s constructed in such a monumentally goofy way that the scene begs for laughs instead of horror, which feels disrespectful to Maya, but the “Chappelle’s Show” style conclusion of the film can’t help itself. Will Maya ever recover from her wounds? Does the cycle of pain end here? Will Jared ever be able to sit properly again? You know, who really cares when the filmmaking is this transparent and sloppy.

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originally posted: 08/10/07 16:39:33
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User Comments

9/27/08 Stan Trying to block the end from my memory 1 stars
5/26/08 Dominic Oh dear.... Trust me, don't watch the end of this film 1 stars
4/29/08 damalc as mean as "Funny Games." not for everyone. btw, unpleasant doesn't necesarily mean bad. 3 stars
3/12/08 Charles Tatum One of the most depressing events of my life; abysmal 1 stars
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  10-Aug-2007 (NC-17)
  DVD: 05-Feb-2008



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Talia Lugacy

Written by
  Talia Lugacy
  Brian Priest

  Rosario Dawson
  Chad Faust
  Marcus Patrick

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