Graphic novelist-turned-helmer Guido van Driel brings a clean compositional style and decisive editing to "The Resurrection of a Bastard," a resolutely Dutch tale of gangster redemption based on the director's illustrated novel.

Graphic novelist-turned-helmer Guido van Driel brings a clean compositional style and decisive editing to “The Resurrection of a Bastard,” a resolutely Dutch tale of gangster redemption based on the director’s illustrated novel. Quirky in a positive way, with arresting images and committed perfs, the pic doesn’t quite manage to entwine its two strands in a satisfying fashion, yet its deft balancing act between humor and pathos, along with intriguing visuals, revive the occasional lapses in narrative cohesion. Local play should stand strong in artier forums, while offshore fest selection is a possibility.

“The mystery of life is hidden in the visible and tangible,” says hotel owner Lotte (Rian Gerritsen) to Ronnie (Yorick van Wageningen), in a great line whose potency is not fully realized, despite van Driel’s attempts to coax out the mystery without resorting to the obvious. Ronnie is a brutish gangster with anger-management issues: During rages he can vacuum a guy’s eye out of his skull, or savagely attack a woman and kid who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In a strikingly shot scene at a party, Ronnie is shot in the bathroom by a masked gunman. He survives the attack, and together he and bodyguard Janus (Juda Goslinga) go to Dokkum, in the northern province of Frisia, to find his attacker. Something inside Ronnie however has changed: He’s quiet, even polite.

Also in Dokkum is Eduardo (Goua Robert Grovogui), an Angolan asylum seeker whose harrowing past is only hinted at in a few blurred scenes. He’s working at a farm owned by the parents of Ronnie’s victim, a woman who became collateral damage while he was roughing up a drug runner; her son Marnix (Johan van der Pol), also injured in the attack, carries that trauma with him.

Van Driel brings these two strands together in an almost mystical way, partly indebted to traditional associations the Dutch have with the Frisian region and the murder in Dokkum, in 754, of St. Boniface. Unsurprisingly, such connections won’t register with non-nationals. Likewise, the reason for Eduardo terrorizing little Marnix isn’t clear, unless auds are meant to assume that the Angolan’s ordeal at home left him prone to perpetuating monstrosities on others.

Despite these problems, there’s something in “Resurrection” that lingers. Ronnie’s disturbing violence contrasted with his subsequent calm; the Tarantino-esque, xenophobic bodyguard Janus; and the no-nonsense warmth of innkeeper Lotte all speak to something deeper than their descriptions suggest. That’s partly due to strong thesping and Lennert Hillege’s fine lensing, reproducing the kinds of carefully constructed visuals found in van Driel’s graphic novel. Clear-cut images with discrete planes make for structured framing, yet the precision is only cold when the subject warrants a hardened surface, such as during Ronnie’s beatings. Editing by Alain Dessauvage (“Bullhead”) also gets the feel of the pic’s origins while wedding them to a distinctly cinematic approach.

The Resurrection of a Bastard

Netherlands-Belgium

Production

An A-Film Distribution release of a Topkapi Films, VPRO, Menuet production. (International sales: Topkapi Films, Amsterdam.) Produced by Frans van Gestel, Arnold Heslenfeld. Co-producers, Rudy Verzyck, Joost de Wolf. Directed by Guido van Driel. Screenplay, van Driel, Bas Blokker, based on the graphic novel by van Driel.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Lennert Hillege; editor, Alain Dessauvage; music, Peter van Laerhoven; production designer, Floris Vos; costume designer, Bernadette Corstens; sound, Peter Warnier, Victor Horstink; assistant director, Marc van der Bijl; casting, Kemna Casting, Janusz Gosschalk, Matijs Wessels. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (opener, competing), Jan. 23, 2013 Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Yorick van Wageningen, Goua Robert Grovogui, Juda Goslinga, Rene Groothof, Leny Breederveld, Rian Gerritsen, Jeroen Willems, Eric Schreurs, Johan van der Pol, Katrien van Beurden, Juliette van Ardenne, Pepijn Schoneveld, Gustav Borreman, Maria Groothof. (Dutch, English dialogue)
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