Review: ‘Godforsaken’

"Godforsaken" is a rapid-fire drama of dislocated youth gone badly wrong. Film finds just enough human warmth through its first hour to make it more than another Tarantino clone but later becomes just helter-skelter. Based on the true story of a youthful gang of Dutch killers in the '90s, slick pic offers little originality, but what it does, it does just fine.

Brash, sensational and visually striking from its first frame, “Godforsaken” is a rapid-fire drama of dislocated youth gone badly wrong. Film finds just enough human warmth through its first hour to make it more than another Tarantino clone but later becomes just helter-skelter. Based on the true story of a youthful gang of Dutch killers in the ’90s and featuring a curiously engaging central character, slick pic offers little originality, but what it does, it does just fine. Following first-class B.O. at home, careful marketing could just take this out to the offshore arthouses.

Adopted Stan (Egbert-Jan Weeber), a disaffected middle-class kid, slides into petty crime with wild-eyed bad boy Maikel (Tygo Gernandt), with whom he shares his girlfriend, Anna (Angela Schijf). Stan’s not too bothered about this, because he recognizes that Maikel can offer him a way out of his humdrum school existence.

When Maikel appears at the funeral of Stan’s real father, their friendship is sealed. Together with Maikel’s junkie buddy, Sef (Mads Wittermans), they attempt a robbery, but things go wrong and the victim is shot.

After a local Turkish mafia boss employs them as contract killers, they get locked into a vicious spiral of killing, with one impressive sequence tracking across several of their murders almost simultaneously to highlight how little it means to them.

All character interest is focused on the interestingly ambiguous Stan, with Weeber convincing as a nice-ish but needy kid who goes bad. Main story is interrupted with grainy flashbacks involving the search of the young Stan (Diego Teixeira) for his truck-driver father, Bert (Harry van Rijthoven). Other thesps compensate for their characters’ one-dimensionality by going way over the top.

Lensing is highly stylized, f/x-heavy and brassy, often using handheld video. Score negotiates classical, electronic drones and heavy metal.

Godforsaken

Netherlands

Production

An IdtV Film production, in association with Rinekl Film Prods. (International sales: High Point Films & Television, London.) Produced by Anton Smit, Hanneke Niens, Reinier Selen. Directed by Pieter Kuijpers. Screenplay, Kuijpers, Paul Jan Nelissen.

Crew

Camera (color), Bert Pot; editor, Job ter Burg; music, Het Paleis van Boem; production designers, Robert van der Hoop, Ruben Schwartz; sound (Dolby Digital), Herman Pieete. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 21, 2003. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Egbert-Jan Weeber, Tygo Gernandt, Angela Schijf, Mads Wittermans, Diego Teixeira, Harry van Rijthoven.
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