Review: BLACK OUT Sparkles In A Darkly Comic Criminal Vein
Is there anything more annoying than waking up in the morning to discover a gun -- and a bloody corpse -- in bed with you? On the day before your wedding?
It's very tempting to describe Arne Toonen's Black Out as The Hangover with bullets and blood, but that would be inaccurate, because the Dutch film adds a layer of self-aware mockery and introduces a roster of aggressively colorful characters to an age-old plot. (I wonder: Did Adam wake up in pain one morning, rub his chest and then mutter, 'What did I do last night? And who is this chick?')
Black Out immediately distinguishes itself by the cold analysis applied by Jos (Raymond Thirry), the groom to be, to the situation at hand. As he acknowledges in voice-over narration that pops up whenever the plot needs footnotes, once upon a time he wouldn't have been surprised to wake up with no memory of the preceding night (or two or three). So, without panicking, he quickly works out a plan to extricate himself from the crime scene and still get to the church on time.
Before he can get very far, however, he receives another knockout blow, and the movie is off to the races.
While none of the narrative beats are strikingly original, the screenplay by Melle Runderkamp and Toonen takes care to shine them up and rearrange them, one note at a time, until they resemble a new composition. It's as though they cooked the same old meatloaf with sparkling new ingredients.
As director, Toonen keeps the pace sprightly without feeling too rushed, and, as alluded to above, showcases a constantly rotating rogue's gallery of criminal "masterminds," enforcers, accomplices, and semi-competent law enforcement officers. Among them are Jos' old cohorts Bobbie (Bos Keijzer) and "Coca" Inez (Renee Fokker), his beloved fiancee Caroline (Kim van Kooten), and Russian ballet dancer turned fearsome crime boss Vlad (Simon Armstrong), AKA "The Gay Basher," not to mention rival crime boss Charles (Edmond Classen), AKA "Grandpa," and his beautiful loan collectors Charity (Katja Schuurman) and Petra (Birgit Schuurman), who like to bash things.
They're so pointedly "street" and/or foolish and/or ruthless that they reinforce the darkly comic, 'don't take this too seriously despite the guns and knives and smashed windows and broken bones and spilled blood' vibe of the film as a whole. The tone thus calls to mind early Guy Ritchie with just a touch of Quentin Tarantino in the manner that the characters carry on with their normal, everyday affairs and working routine, even as they plan to rip off drug dealers and wield weapons of personal destruction without having the slightest idea what they're doing.
Circling back around to the opening scenes, it's a particular moment in Jos' disposal of the body that 'clicks' and locks the movie into a distinctive mode, one with a pungent sense of humor that winks and says, 'Let's go!,' making Black Out a convivial pleasure to watch.
Review originally published during Fantastic Fest in September 2012. The film opens in select theaters in the U.S. on Friday, February 21. Visit the official site for more information.