Helmer Philippe Caland (scripter of the notorious “Boxing Helena”) gets a potent performance from Forest Whitaker as a deeply troubled construction contractor whose obsession with his deceased mom leads him to seek the aid of a self-help author (Anthony Mackie) in the pulpy “Vipaka.” Around the 30-minute mark, however, the pic devolves into a captor/captive melodrama with a constant threat of “Saw”-style mayhem, and it’s all downhill after that. Not graphically violent enough to satisfy hard-core genre fans, and with a plot that will likely repel mainstream auds, the pic appears destined for a future as homevid and VOD fare.Life coach Thomas Carter (Mackie) offers private therapy sessions to Angel Sanchez (Whitaker) to raise quick cash for his ex-convict sibling (Mike Epps), who owes big money to bad people. But when Thomas tries to end the sessions, Angel drags the author down to his soundproofed basement, where he proceeds to use hypodermics, power tools and other instruments to force Thomas into uncloseting some of his own skeletons. Final scenes are especially unpleasant — and, worse, predictable. Title is a Buddhist term referring to the result of karma. Insert joke here.
A Significant production in association with Juntobox Films. Produced by Philippe Caland, Forest Whitaker, Nina Yang. Executive producer, Rachid Rizk. Directed by Philippe Caland. Screenplay, Shintaro Shimosawa, based on a story by Caland.
Camera (color), Denis Maloney; editors, Lee Haugen, Rick Shaine; music, Mark Kilian; production designer, Ray Pumilia; set decorator, Michele Marchand; costume designer, Meagan McLaughlin; sound, Jonathan Parham; associate producer, Karen Mayeda-Vranek; assistant director, Christopher Bryson; casting, Lindsay Chag. Reviewed online, Houston, Jan. 31, 2013. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- Special Screenings.) Running time: 94 MIN.
Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, Mike Epps, Sanaa Lathan, Nicole Ai Parker, Ariana Neal, Peter Weller.