Movie Review: The Devil’s 6 Commandments
Films in the rape-revenge genre typically like to highlight in on their more salacious, titillating and lurid elements. The more brutal the rape and, especially, the more vicious the revenge the better.
However, for his debut feature film, The Devil’s 6 Commandments, writer/director Dicky Tanuwidjaya takes the more staid and philosophical route, going for a more artful approach for the revenge sequences and virtually banishing actual sex from the entire production. Tanuwidjaya also stocks his film with multiple peripheral characters with compounding and intersecting moral dilemmas, so that the plot isn’t singularly driven or too one-note.
When we first meet the main character, Nina (Gianna Patterson), she is already a ruthless killing machine who, along with her half-brother Ares (Felino Dolloso), mete out deadly justice to those who deserve it. Although she desperately tries to cling to her black and white notions of good and evil, that she has lengthy philosophical discussions with a priest, Father Ramone (Robin Queree), prove that she has a conflicted soul.
Through flashback, we learn Nina went from good girl to bad after being beaten and left for dead by a gang of goons led by the scumbag whose sexual advances she rebuffed. The rape and assault leaves her in a coma and, when she awakes, Ares convinces her that she needs to get revenge in the bloodiest ways imaginable — especially since she’s the daughter of a ruthless crime lord.
While there’s lots of talk about the joys of bloody murder, the actual killings are fairly bloodless, yet imaginative, i.e. the audience needs to bring imagination how one murders with an iron and a vacuum cleaner. Plus, when the chief scumbag finally gets his due, there isn’t the usual, visceral sense of justice through an over-the-top visual killing. Instead, the action swiftly cuts to a long dissertation from a creepy restaurant owner about the different cooking methods needed for human body parts to taste like various animal meats — the better to fool his customers about what they’re actually eating.
After Nina’s personal revenge is sated, she and her brother go to work for a crooked cop who pays them to do his dirty work, which includes getting hired by a gangster to kill his gay brother’s male lover. The complications from that particular hit is what drives the second half of the movie.
For the most part, Tanuwidjaya keeps everything moving at a nice clip by switching the film’s POV between the different characters. He also inserts lots of entertaining transitions. The technique of introducing characters via the covers of fictional magazines is amusing. And the same goes for the half-dozen chapter breaks that are labelled by the Devil’s actual six commandments, such as Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Not Kill the Wrong Victim.
With all the imaginative, getting-away-with-a-low-budget storytelling techniques, the film does tend to lag here and there with a few too many uncreatively shot conversations taking place in non-set-dressed apartment living rooms. These draggy scenes are even more of a distraction since otherwise the photography by Daniel Dahlman nicely varies between the sunny streets of Sydney, Australia and the grimy warehouse-style locations where most of the action scenes are shot.
Patterson, an Australian reality TV star, also does a fine job carrying the film as the conflicted Nina. Her transformation from ordinary citizen to crusading vixen of death is a moderate, believable one. She stays away from the brooding aesthetic the heroines of revenge flicks typically carry around like a ton of bricks on their backs. We can understand and sympathize with her position rather than merely acting as peeping toms on her illicit behavior. Plus, drawing from her real-life martial arts training, Patterson looks pretty good doling out punches and high kicks against the bad guys.
The Devil’s 6 Commandments has just enough fun twists on familiar proceedings that make it feel fresh and original. But, it’s biggest twist is how Tanuwadjaya very thoughtfully explores and complicates his characters’ moral universe — a universe filled with a lot of brutality and death.
Watch The Devil’s 6 Commandments movie trailer: