Prayer to a Vengeful God (Review)
Prayer to a Vengeful God (2010)
Directed by Dan Eberle
New York City has always had two sides of its personality. The glitz and glamour that the tourists love and the residual grime of the world unseen.
The latter is Dan Eberle's playground. With The Local, he showed us the underbelly of NYC and it shined. I loved the film praising it has a Charles Bukowski poem come to life. With Eberle's next film, Prayer to a Vengeful God I have to admit I was a little skeptical. Why? Because the movie would attempt to tell a story WITHOUT DIALOGUE.
Would I enjoy a movie void of conversation from the actors? How could anything be conveyed appropriately without talking? These and other questions entered my head and though the trailer showed me glimpses of a love story turned vengeance quest, I had my doubts.
Well I've been proven wrong.
Prayer to a Vengeful God is simply a stunning, visual symphony of a soon to be independent classic. The world Dan Eberle creates is filled with drug addicts, criminals, low lives and vagrants. They all participate in a cinematic ballet where our main character John Krause seeks his vengeance served cold. The performances by the entire cast are spectacular in the fact they must convey the story without saying a thing. And they do this perfectly.
It's not just a gimmick, but a tool to push the envelope of how we, the audience process a story. The plot is backround noise here. What the film seems to do is show you images that are warm or cold and make you feel that type of positive or negative emotion. When the characters are angry, you become mad as well.
After the movie is over, you will have been through a roller coaster of emoticons. And you will be left speechless...something that seems fitting.
PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD is the story of one man’s journey from successful, upper-class citizen, to debilitated mental case, to battle-hardened street killer. All to kill a man he’s never met, to commemorate a wife he never really knew.
Told in a lyrical cinematic style, entirely without dialogue, PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD is a silent study of how the lust for revenge twists and rends, and despite its carnal satisfactions, can never change the past.
John Krause is our protagonist. His journey is going to be hard to watch. His wife murdered, he wakes up from a coma to rebuild his life. But soon he discovers his wife has a past that he didn't know but soon will. It's a path filled with bigger than life characters who, in their own way help or hinder John's quest of vengeance and redemption.
We first meet Jennifer, his wife who soon becomes a ghostly image that guides him. Later, we encounter "Urchin", a girl who helps him in a critical moment. As we trudge along John meets Gabby, a friend of Jennifer who explains his wife's "other activities" (a spiral towards tricks for drugs). John who had been a common office worker than proceeds to metamorphisize into a junkie turned Travis Bickle. With the help of a Transient (who performs some Mr. Miyagi lessons) he seeks out the men and women responsible for his wife's demise. "Bearer" and "Miscreant" are on his list as well as an unseen man who his the mastermind of this drug den operation.
I emphasize the movie is without dialogue. It's important to note because we have to watch closely to understand what's going on. At times, I got lost on exactly what was happening as the transitions to flashbacks wasn't entirely clear. But like riding a bike, you become use to the fact nobody is talking. What you begin to focus on are the character's actions and I began to fill in the gaps of what might have been said.
There are scenes where the characters "want" to talk but you don't hear a word. Screenplays start writing themselves in your head and even a few times I got slightly irritated. But I focused on what I felt the characters were feeling and that's how it should be watched.
Eberle's performance is fantastic. His face wreaks of emotion. You see pain and anguish. You see despair and hopelessness. And later you see anger and blood lust. It's very gripping and jam packed with so many highs and lows, you feel what he feels.
Paul James Vasquez as the Transient is superb as well. In a few scenes, John and the Transient have a Morpheus/Neo training and it breaks the tension with some hilarity. But that's soon gone as the mission is foremost on John's list.
You may think the movie will be one big montage without dialogue. It does have that montagy feel at times. But whenever you see a montage in a film, typically you tend to pay more attention to what's going on. And that's how Prayer plays out.
Again like The Local, the visuals and photography are shot to NYC perfection. Brooklyn (see Richmond Hill), Queens and Manhattan become more lively and a character in itself. The typical NYC background is replaced with a more mom and pop neighborhood feel. It's what I like about Dan Eberle's movies. I feel like I'm watching where people actually live.
Like I said, the movie gives you warmth or coldness depending on the scene. After losing his wife, John despairs into suicide. The brightness goes slowly into dark and by the end we are engulfed into complete blackness. There are continuous takes that peer into each of the characters but as John goes all Kill Bill, the movie rapidly encounters an edited frenzy. The action scenes are brutal and hardcore. John now fully trained becomes a masterful madman. In one scene, a tied and beaten up drug dealer sits in a fully lit room with playful paintings of a dog and cat. I noticed this shift of insanity and I hope others do to.
By the end, we are as frigid as Antarctica and it's all going to Oldboy at this point. How we perceive John is entirely up to us. From a typical office drone, to a junkie and finally to a Robin Hood machete wielding vengeance machine. Some will be happy of the outcome, others will shrug.
I sincerely believe dialogue wouldn't have hurt the film but I'm glad Eberle went without it. There are times the movie falls into cliche land but that's going to happen when you delve into this genre.
Prayer is not a typical revenge movie but a tale of misery meets morality. The world is not always the happy face we think it is.
When something bad happens, we pray for things to get better. Usually those prayers are said silently.
It's probably exactly how Dan Eberle imagined it.
Metal pipe bashing
The entire film is without dialogue.. I did mention this right?
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
Check out the Facebook page for more info. The movie will make its world premiere on October 8th in Brooklyn at IndieScreen (http://www.indiescreen.us/) which is located at 285 Kent Avenue at S. 2nd St. For more info, check out the official site as well.
Check out the trailer below!