1844-surveillance.jpg

Surveillance

Dir: Jennifer Lynch

Rating: 1.5/5.0

Magnet Releasing

97 Minutes

Surveillance, the second film by Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David Lynch) could be the world’s first psychological torture porn film. Sure, there are plenty of sadomasochistic spurts of violence in this malicious little film, but Lynch seems to relish not only in sickening acts of violence, but also sickening realizations. Too bad the plot twists in this thriller, about the attempts of two FBI agents and a cadre of bumpkin cops trying to stop two homicidal maniacs, make the turns in any recent M. Night Shyamalan film seem like strokes of pure brilliance.

Following 16 years off after Boxing Helena, Lynch’s penchant for the distasteful hasn’t subsided. While Helena’s notoriety outshone what was a worthless film, Surveillance will create almost no ripples whatsoever as it slithers in and out of theatres to find a second life on late-night cable. Set in the American Mid-West, Surveillance features a who’s-who cast of also-rans who converge on a sleepy police station after a massacre to solve some grisly murders. Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond are the shadowy FBI agents, Michael Ironside is the all-to-believing sheriff and Cheri Oteri plays the mother of a little girl who witnessed one of the attacks. Though the allure of seeing these long vanished actors may trick you into watching Surveillance, that motivation isn’t enough to endure Lynch’s violent, sadistic vision.

See, in Lynch’s world everyone is ugly. Two local policemen (French Stewart and Kent Harper) get off on shooting out the tires of passers-by and then terrorizing them with their guns. Massacre survivor Pell James is a caustic drug addict who, minutes before the attack, laughs as a drug dealer convulses to death from an overdose. Then she steals his dope. Humanity is disgusting, folks, and Lynch is here to rub our faces in it.

Though Papa David executive-produced this film, the younger Lynch possesses none of the finesse her father has brought to the subject of the violence that lies just under our notion of the American Dream. David Lynch wisely blends his violence with humor, humanism and compassion in his films. I felt nothing for the characters here. Even Pullman and Ormond seemed to exist in some faux Mulder-cum-Scully alternate reality. It’s a pity such likable actors have to stage a comeback with so little support. Just look for Pullman’s pantomime of a soda can as he describes the bleeding out death of one character. Where’s Nicolas Cage when you need him?

Surveillance ends with a twist that even the dumbest audience member could have predicted. The only thing that saves the film from an even lower rating is the somewhat inventive narrative structure. By the time the killers’ motives are revealed, we realize there are no motives for ugliness in the Lynch world. It’s just a shame Lynch does not have the chops to pull off what her father has been beautifully allowed us to witness in his best films.

by David Harris

  • Rediscover: The Comfort of Strangers

    The Comfort of Strangers is a head scratching misuse of so much talent, yet it’s difficult…
  • Shiva Baby

    For the approximation of a panic attack, though one punctuated with sharply witty moments,…
  • Rediscover: Toni

    Though it doesn’t scale the heights of Renoir’s best, Toni is an interesting and refreshin…
  • Rediscover: The Comfort of Strangers

    The Comfort of Strangers is a head scratching misuse of so much talent, yet it’s difficult…
  • The Tunnel

    We feel the terror of the situation because the characters do. …
  • Moffie

    A tale of two different films, the first a study of blossoming interpersonal communication…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Rediscover: The Comfort of Strangers

The Comfort of Strangers is a head scratching misuse of so much talent, yet it’s difficult…