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Suspending a Lot of Disbelief

Review: Innocent Blood @ Vancouver Asian Film Fest.

by Isaac Oommen

Image linked from VAFF website
Image linked from VAFF website

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It's here - the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. And it invited VMC to review the opening night film Innocent Blood (or just sent me VIP ticket because I'm a gangsta south asian on the scene). During the intro, the organizer mentioned how important it was for the film-makers to get feedback from us, the audience. The co-director, who was on hand to talk about the film, also mentioned how importan the issues were in the film - the issue for him was women forced into the sex trade. The issues in this review, are many.

Before the film, we got to watch acclaimed short Requiem for a Romance, which is brilliant in every way. It basically made me rethink break-ups.

I want to start by saying that I love detective stories. We've got the privilege of living at a time during which they're really being re-thought: from Watchmen to Sin City and many more. Blood starts off as a conventional detective story: retired LAPD detective, udercover officer and general badass James Park has to figure out who has kidnapped his son. He's forced to go back into his colourful but traumatic past to save his son.

"You're kind of a mythical legend around the LAPD"

Ever get the feeling that a writer has fallen in love with the character they've created? This film is a prime example. Writer Sun W. Kim goes out of his way to show how badass Park is. He's got a gunshot scar. He was a "mythical legend" (not just a myth or a legend, but a mythical legend) at the LAPD. Even the Triads that he broke apart respect him because he can reload a gun faster than Samson pulled down the pillars he was tied to (watch to film to see why I made that odd Bible reference). There's a $1/2 mil bounty on his head that no one collects because "what if you miss?"

I like badasses. I've studied Byronic heroes since I was in undergrand English Lit classes and they never cease to entertain and educate. And Park is Byronic, down to his broody broody soul. Well, kind of a broody hero that's been chained to a domestic life. But of course said life cannot contain him for too long. He broods too much, you see.

Only thing is this exploitation of his badassness leads to dead ends at times. Like when he visits his estranged father who once tried to kill him that is a mob boss that is dying and writes some caligraphy for him but tells him he's not trying to kill him (kinda like this sentence).

"Strong characters have willpower; weak ones only desire"

I love bad guys. One of my favourite is Ashtosh Rana from Bollywood awesomness. Dude loves playing bad guys.

Bit odd that the sex-crazed lab guy from Dexter plays the bad guy here, but that's my shit. He did a good job. Delivered some bad lines with deadpan face. Nice.

"...even you, need people like me"

I've watched enough Bollywood to know when the hero is about to hit the woman he's talking to. This was a different level, though. Park smacks his wife as she's going on about the sex trade workers that he's slept with. Thing is, she didn't say anything controversial; she just kinda told him what he'd done (though it's not certain whether he did actually sleep with these women).

Nice reference to Scarface though.

I will say that I love that so many things about Park's character is ambiguous. Because he speaks multiple languages, I'm not sure what part of Asia he's supposed to be from. Also, did he actually sleep with underage sex workers? Did he actually have a hand in framing some poor chap years ago?

"This is my brother's innocent blood, which you tainted"

Uh, so the bad guy says he's going to not kill Park's son immediately, but instead infect him with his brother's HIV-infected blood, which will slowly kill him. I wasn't sure if this was what he meant, until the co-director doing Q+A after said that this was exactly what dude had in mind.

OK awesome I get the suspension of disbelief thing. And I grew up in a part of the middle east where HIV education was poor as shit. But this film is out of LA, and we should make it really clear: highly improbable that this would work out in the killer's favour. I went to the film with a friend who works in HIV support services, and even before she got pissed off at the writer and told me (hooray for me), I knew that ARV medication has gotten to the point that it can control HIV so that young Park would not necessarily have that slow death. Also, ARV treatment within 72 hours of contact can drastically reduce chance of infection. Important note so that there isn't stigmatization of folks with HIV, especially since this intersects with race and other things that are stigmatized. Also, from my paramedic friend: HIV doesn't live long outside the body in a syringe like that. And bad guy had that blood in the syringe for a while.

"We don't call them Orientals anymore. We call them Asians"

There are a few white dudes in the film. They're all not the best actors. Really forced lines. The one white dude, who is supposed to be the good white guy, says the above line. It's supposed to show that not all white people are racist. His partner though, is a racist white chap with a thing for jailbait.

More than anything, a stronger script would have helped everyone. Park's lines are sweet for the most part, though they lack whenever he's talking about saving LA.

"Do you know who I am? I'm the district attorney of LA!"

I love how the film is shot, using the Red. Excellent pans of 'hoods. Amazing rooftop shots. They did so well with lighting.

The film ends with the good white guy carrying young Park out of a motel as the sun sets. Or rises. I highly recommend watching this film, depending on why you watch films. It brought me a bunch of unintended laughs, had some great references, and made me think of Bollywood a lot. And godamn I love badasses: Park is a badass to the end.

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