Tuesday, 21 August 2007

EIFF: WAZ - Review by Robert Duffin

Director: Tom Shankland
Screenwriter: Clive Bradley
Running Time: 103 mins
EIFF Screenings:
Tuesday 21st 21:45 Cineworld

WAZ is an irritating film for anyone writing about it before they even get to see it. It’s not actually called WAZ; the middle symbol is not an A but a small triangle, the mathematical symbol for delta. However, discovering what the bizarre title means is as much work as your brain is going to have to do during this film. Bitter cop Eddie Argo (Stellan Skarsgard) and naive new partner Helen Westcott (Mellissa George) are on the trail of a serial killer who carves the titular equation onto their victims. These casualties are have one thing in common, they all took part in a gang rape years before but were never convicted because Eddie fumbled the case.

The motive is just the beginning of the woes. Apparently WAZ is the equation denoting the selfish gene in humanity, and according to scientist Dr Gelb (a gormless Paul Kaye) is proof that humans are not truly capable of love or compassion. You see, he put some monkeys and a crocodile together and when the croc ate a monkey the other primates didn’t help him. Our killer’s raison d’ĂȘtre is this theory and, in the true torture porn style, puts it to the test by kidnapping her victim and a family member and forces the attackers to either let themselves be killed or murder their own family member instead. I love science.

Ex-Home and Away star Melissa George gives a tough but vulnerable performance and is the only authentic thing in the film. Stellan Skarsgard’s miserable mug could have been interesting if he wasn’t a walking clichĂ©. He’s a tough guy who lights a cigarette just as someone tells him “no smoking” and spouts such witty barbs as “stop, or I’ll blow your brains out.” One gets the feeling Rutger Hauer was too busy for this script back in the early 90s, but like a cockroach it’s managed to survive.

For its first hour WAZ is a decent shocker, with enough scares and jump to keep you overlooking the been there done that plotting. Director Tom Shankland and cinematographer Morton Soborg fuse the Fincher palette of Se7en with the murky lighting of Saw and for a while manage to keep things afloat. However once the typical genre twists and turns arrive, and we find out which Hollywood star is chewing the scenery as our serial killer, Double-You Delta Zed (to be pedantic) quickly outstays its welcome although does confirm my theory that math is evil.


Anonymous said...

Clearly this film went over the reviewer's head. Shame that. It's the most intelligent thriller I've seen in ages.

Robert Duffin said...

I'm glad you had a better time with the film than I did. For me it was too contrived, and the attempts at philosophical underpinnings felt pretentious. It would have worked perfectly as a gritty little B movie, but the mathematical angle was simply punching above its weight. There was never a point in the film where the next twist wasn't obvious, except for the final one, which was exploitative. A blatant attempt to surprise the audience while negating the internal logic of the characters and the film itself. It's a shame that a decade on from Se7en the genre hasn't moved forward.

Anonymous said...

I saw this film at Fright Fest and agree with the first poster, this film was outstanding. Me thinks it might be the reviewer, not the film, that's punching above their weight!

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? I saw this at Frightfest a couple of weeks ago and I was really moved. I didn't feel it was pretentious at all. The message was life affirming! The algebra thing is all true (looked it up the next day - check it out, its fascinating). It got me thinking about my perceptions of self and of the love and the nature of love. The two friends I went with and I were still talking about it two days later. I'm waiting for this to come out to go seee it again. Can't understand why the reviewer has taken such a cold, cynical stance on the film. Does anyone know when this is coming out?

Robert Duffin said...

According to IMDB, it still doesn't have a confirmed release date. Who are you people? Don't worry, if I was going to admit liking this I'd post anonymously too. 'Me thinks.'

Anonymous said...

I have to jump to the writers defence here. I also caught this at EIFF and what a waste of my money it was. I think you are all secretly Stellan Skarsgard.

Jonathan Hallamore said...

How odd that of all the films we've reviewed on Montage WAS gets the most attention. I'm fascinated to hear that our unnamed readership thought so highly of it, life affirming even, because I thought it was a facile time waster. It failed to create any atmosphere, owing to its total lack of credibility: In one scene a gangster named Pierre shoots a rival and then rings his granny to say he's on the way home. No atmosphere, no chills or thrills and no help from the ludicrous plot twists.

Alienation of readership complete.

Anonymous said...

of course you and your friends have gotten on with your lives and forgotten all about this film. Well, after being accused by one of your fellow reviewers of working for the production company that made this film - she backing your opinion up without having even seen the movie herself - I just thought you would like to know that WAZ has gotten 4 star reviews in Empire, Film Review, Total Film and from Kim Newman. Real critics, real movie publications. Not real surprising!

Robert Duffin said...

Aaaaah, old debates. I did see the 4 star reviews. What can I say, clearly they don't know what hell they are talking about, they have given many dubious 4 and 5 star reviews over the years. Judging by the number of people who actually saw this atrocity, the public agrees.