Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
"Every Line In The Movie I Wrote Myself": Ryan Reynolds Talks Playing Deadpool In 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' "Every Line In The Movie I Wrote Myself": Ryan Reynolds Talks Playing Deadpool In 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' First Look: 24 Images From 'Game Of Thrones' Season 6 First Look: 24 Images From 'Game Of Thrones' Season 6 The 25 Best TV Dramas Since 'The Sopranos' The 25 Best TV Dramas Since 'The Sopranos' Interview: Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki Talks ‘The Revenant’, Working With Terrence Malick, Muting The Ego & Much More Interview: Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki Talks ‘The Revenant’, Working With Terrence Malick, Muting The Ego & Much More Derek Cianfrance's 'The Light Between Oceans' Starring Michael Fassbender Gets Labor Day Weekend Release Date Derek Cianfrance's 'The Light Between Oceans' Starring Michael Fassbender Gets Labor Day Weekend Release Date 'In Bruges' Director Martin McDonagh's 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Starts Shooting This Spring 'In Bruges' Director Martin McDonagh's 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Starts Shooting This Spring Disruptors: How Netflix & Amazon Are Creating Greater Tumult In The Independent Film Industry Disruptors: How Netflix & Amazon Are Creating Greater Tumult In The Independent Film Industry "There Was Not A Clear Understanding Of The Kind Of Movie We Were Making": Susanne Bier Gets Candid About 'Serena' "There Was Not A Clear Understanding Of The Kind Of Movie We Were Making": Susanne Bier Gets Candid About 'Serena' New Plot Details Emerge For Claire Denis' Sci-Fi 'High Life' With Robert Pattinson New Plot Details Emerge For Claire Denis' Sci-Fi 'High Life' With Robert Pattinson Leonardo DiCaprio Reteams With 'The Revenant' Co-Writer Mark L. Smith For 'Conquest' Leonardo DiCaprio Reteams With 'The Revenant' Co-Writer Mark L. Smith For 'Conquest' Watch: First Trailer For 'Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates' With Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick & Aubrey Plaza Watch: First Trailer For 'Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates' With Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick & Aubrey Plaza Review: 'Deadpool' Starring Ryan Reynolds, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, And Gina Carano Review: 'Deadpool' Starring Ryan Reynolds, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, And Gina Carano How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far Sundance Review: The Exquisite Holy Terror Of ‘The Witch’ Will Chill Your Bones & Haunt Your Soul Sundance Review: The Exquisite Holy Terror Of ‘The Witch’ Will Chill Your Bones & Haunt Your Soul The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' 21 Movies About Weird, Kinky Or Compulsive Sex 21 Movies About Weird, Kinky Or Compulsive Sex 20 Survival Films That Will Take You Into The Abyss 20 Survival Films That Will Take You Into The Abyss

Review: 'Graceland' Mashes Together Suspense Thriller With Sobering Child Trafficking Drama, With Mixed Results

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist April 24, 2013 at 7:05PM

Mild-mannered husband and father Marlon Villar is just having one of those days. The boss is on his case. His wife is being needy. His daughter is acting up. The cops are bugging him. “Graceland” begins as a compendium of what some adults would call a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day. Wah wah.
0
Graceland

Mild-mannered husband and father Marlon Villar is just having one of those days. The boss is on his case. His wife is being needy. His daughter is acting up. The cops are bugging him. “Graceland” begins as a compendium of what some adults would call a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day. Wah wah.

If only it were that easy. His boss is sniveling, corrupt politico Manuel Chango, a man who demands that his underlings clean up his messes. Said messes usually involve underage prostitutes from the local sex-trafficking trade, some of whom don’t survive the night. Chango pays Marlon to act as his chauffeur, with the expectation that he act as garbage man for Chango’s grotesque excess. No, he doesn’t really care that Marlon’s wife is sick and bed-ridden.

Graceland

Marlon eventually makes the mistake of bringing his home life into his work life. Tasked with driving Chango’s adolescent daughter to school, he also brings along his own daughter of the same age. The two are friends, sharing inside jokes and playing video games, so Marlon assumes no harm will come from a little fraternization, even if they secretly play hooky and skip out on school. After meeting them at the pick-up point, and chewing their ears off, a motorcycle cop wants to chat. It becomes clear very quickly -- this is not an actual cop. It seems they know this is Chango’s ride, and that Chango’s girl is in the backseat. But the cop fires a bullet point blank into the chest of Chango’s daughter, and he absconds with Elvie, Marlon’s child.

The life expectancy for employees who encounter such calamities is likely low, so Marlon panics. He hides the girl’s body, telling Chango they’ve taken both girls, an act of improvisation that obscures the fact he might as well literally be sweating bullets. Chango may be loaded, he may be very powerful, but he’s also something of a monster, having frequented the Filipino red light district in search of teens almost nightly. Writer-director Ron Morales never lets you forget, however, that this man also has a family, he also has responsibilities to himself. A disgusting human being, but a human being nonetheless, one whom trusts Marlon with his version of the truth, however askew.

Marlon, ultimately, seems powerless. He gets an inside look at the proceedings, learning that the kidnappers claim they have Chango’s daughter, and are seeking millions, but not without making Chango squirm first. Do they know they have the wrong girl? Do they know they have Marlon’s daughter? Marlon makes the choice to remain adamant about his version of the events, in the hopes that Chango is too distracted to discipline him or consider the possibility he is lying.

Graceland

Experiences with high-octane foreign cinema suggest that “Graceland” will devolve into a series of chases and gunfights, and that Marlon will rise to the occasion and heroically save his girl. This is not that movie. Our protagonist is beat and chastised throughout the film’s runtime, impotent in the face of thugs and politicians, armed with only the hope that his daughter will return to him. Director Morales instead showcases kidnappers who want to illustrate how deep the rabbit hole of corruption goes. Again, a genre film would have Marlon siding with the kidnappers in some way, but their idealism is unsettling, violence-based and extreme in its disrespect for the inner workings of the local politics.

“Graceland” is paced like a conventional thriller, though it’s ill-prepared to shift from an all-odds-against-me thriller into a sober-headed examination of child sex-trafficking. Especially considering the “thrills” are of the station-to-station variety, earthbound and couched in the realistic aspects of a kidnapping, though our villains are a sneering, diabolical network of double crossers and opportunists: it sometimes feels like there’s a separate movie going on at our captors’ lair. Bridging the gap between Marlon’s nerves, the kidnappers’ plotting and the reality of the local sex trafficking scene is a balancing act that this movie simply can’t manage, the house of cards spilling over as these worlds begin to collide. "Graceland" never manages to be that specifically fascinating place to visit, but rather three diverse worlds with no internal consistency to link them. Mezmerizing in fits and starts, "Graceland" doesn't coalesce into the "important" thriller it seeks to be. [B]

This is a reprint of our review from the Tribeca Film Festival 2012.

This article is related to: Graceland, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates