NB: this discusses some plot points you might not want beforehand to know if you intend on seeing the film.
A Georgian film made mostly in English – directed by Georgian Levan Bakhia from a script by Canadian Adrian Colussi – Landmine Goes Click initially seems to be an entry in a cycle of confined peril pictures which was initiated by Phone Booth and Open Waters – followed by Buried, Adrift, Adam Green’s Frozen and others. These movies combine appealing-to-producers low budgets, appealing-to-actors opportunities for bravura suffering and appealing-to-audiences suspense as protagonists are trapped in small, dangerous spaces for nearly the whole running time of a film. Here, American Chris (Sterling Knight) is touring the picturesque wilds of Georgia with his best friend Daniel (Dean Geyer – who appears in another confined peril FrightFest film, The Sand) and Daniel’s fiancée Alicia (Spencer Locke). While posing for a photograph, Chris steps on a landmine left over from recent war – it clicks, and the assumption is that it will explode if Chris steps off. Daniel reveals that he knows Alicia was unfaithful to him with Chris and hares off, leaving the pair to cope with the situation. Into the clearing comes Ilya (Kote Tolordava), a mercurial local with a dog and a shotgun who responds to appeals for help with increasingly aggressive, sexual demands of Alicia.
With the abuse of the female lead, the film switches tack – though inexplicit in comparison with, say, the I Spit On Your Grave or Hostel films, Landmine Goes Click still trades in the seamier clichés of rape-and-torture cinema, including the notion that non-Americans are all sweaty, lecherous, murderous menaces and that the most important thing about sexual assaults on women is that they upset men who feel a sense of proprietorship over them. From the infidelity that sets up the plot through to the unpleasant characterisations of everyone in the mix, there’s a sense of misanthropy which undermines the fairly overstretched suspense scenario. Two-thirds of the way through a protracted 110m running time, after Alicia has submitted to a brutal rape, the business with the landmine is resolved … and the rest of the picture is devoted to revenge as a smiling, calculating survivor worms their way into Ilia’s home and subjects his innocent wife Tanya (Nana Kiknadze) and daughter Lika (Helen Nelson) to equivalent tortures in front the of the squirming, complaining aggressor. Again, the whole focus is not on how the women feel about their ordeal – and the issue of how much they know or realise about Ilia’s misdeeds is fudged – but on how the men in the situation feel about it. A long final shot holding on the face of an avenger who now seems shattered by victory still seems like special pleading on behalf of self-pitying masculinity.
The hook is still effective, though the film makes surprisingly little of the physical demands of standing in one place in the open sun for hours and the practicalities of getting out of the quandary – which begin with digging a trench – are set aside when the wandering rapist happens along. Though characterisations are from stock, performances are reasonably good – and the Georgian landscape is attractive. It’s not strong meat enough to compete in the controversy stakes with the equally hateful yet squirmily fascinating likes of A Serbian Film or Hostel and the generally unlikeable characters undermine the audience identification necessary to get viewers thinking about what they’d do in such a situation.
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