Romina returns home from a shift at the hospital to find a man, Alan, lying unconscious in her kitchen and another, Chris, in hiding. Chris has brought Alan here because he needs her to keep him alive. Chris needs a confession from Alan, a confession for a crime he says Alan committed five years ago that ultimately destroyed Chris' family. Soon Romina will understand what her connection is to all of this as well. When Alan calls for help, Hell answers the call.
Small scenes at the beginning of For The Sake of Vicious quickly set up the characters. There’s Romina and the candy dish at the receptionist’s counter in the hospital. It may not look like much but it shows a woman with ZFTG. The scene with Chris in the garage shows a man hatching his plan, though what it is we don’t know yet. The scene with Alan and his daughters shows a family man doting on his children but when he gets to his car outside Gerald is waiting for him with an unnecessary escort. Who is Gerald and why doesn’t Alan want the neighbours to see?
There are any number of spots where a glossed over studio production would want more exposition to have been inserted, give the audience a break, a chance to breathe, perhaps more opportunity to bind yourself to Chris' emotional turmoil. It is true that Nick Smyth’s Chris is a tortured soul who has lost everything. Never believing Alan was innocent he wants justice and we think he believes he knows how he wants this to end. We understand that Chris is in pain, that his soul has been tortured all this time. Smyth gets us there with ease. But the arrival of the gang takes this out of his hands.
Lora Burke’s Romina is a bit of a mystery. A nurse and a single mom, there is a very quick admission to something happening only a few months earlier but it doesn't appear to have wrought the same consequences and circumstances we get with Chris. Regardless, she is strong and resilient and though the circumstances are freaking her the fuck out she still fights on.
Colin Paradine’s Alan is an unrepentant focus of Chris’ rage. He’s not completely innocent of any wrongdoing but his connections to Gerald will get him the result he wants. It’s a little weird to try to disassociate James Fler from his character Gerald only because we’ve only ever known him in his role at Raven Banner Entertainment. Still, his minimalist dialogue role does convey that he is the wrong guy to cross here. These reflections on character are far more than we need but we want to give the actors their due because without them there is no reason to react to what comes next.
Character set up out of the way it’s time for For The Sake of Vicious to show everyone what it truly is, an exercise in lean, violent storytelling. In a brisk eighty minute run time the first thirty a tense thriller, establishing characters and motives, setting up the audience for the violence that is still to come. Violence that Romina and Chris do not know is coming. The last fifty swings into action horror and is an all out brawl for survival as thugs break into the home and attack them.
Truth is, directing duo Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen give a flying fuck about whether or not your emotional connection to the characters is strong enough by the time Alan calls for help. At this point this story has now turned from one of anger and frustration into raw fear and a fight for survival. One's survival instinct does not depend on how we feel about it. Strap in buckos, we're not stopping until everyone is dead or bloody well close to it. When we pause to breathe it is only because someone has a gun to someone else's head. Then and only then will the film pause. But only long enough to think about it, knowing the answer was always going to be, yes, this gun is going to go off.
The action here is brutal and gory. Everything and anything will be used to fight off these thugs to survive.There are no open spaces here. The fighting goes between the bathroom, living room, and kitchen. That's it. There is no cache of weapons. You use what you’ve brought or you find something next to you. This is ugly and brutal fighting that few will walk away from. This isn't the kind of fighting that panders for your approval. Spit and polish is for shoes, mates.
Could there have been more 'oh' moments? Probably. But with the right audience there will be a lot of cheering and visceral reactions to what happens on screen. We're responding more clinically to it and it still elicited 'oohs' and 'the fucks?' from us.
For the Sake of Vicious is an action horror film with clear goals and purpose and sets out to meet them as efficiently as possible. Letting nothing get in its way, For the Sake of Vicious comes barrelling through our front doors, brandishing knives with an intent to kill. And Carrer and Eveneshen kill it good.
I believe this is what they call in the industry a 'real shitkicker of a movie'.
Review originally published during Fantasia in September 2020. The film will open in select North American theaters on Friday, April 16, and will be available On Demand on Tuesday, April 20, via Dread, Epic Pictures, and Raven Banner. Visit the official Epic Pictures site for theater locations and more information.