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Fantasia 2014: ‘Kite’ is juvenile and hyper-stylized without reason

Fantasia 2014: ‘Kite’ is juvenile and hyper-stylized without reason

Kite Poster 2Kite
Written by Brian Cox (no, not that one)
Directed by Ralph Ziman
USA/Mexico, 2014

Kite is hyperbolic in every sense imaginable. It’s hyper-stylized without reason, hyper-violent, and incredibly stupid. It’s also under-developed, though it masquerades having depth.

Sawa (India Eisley) is a teenage girl living in an unspecified post-apocalyptic city. Through opening text we’re told that the origins of the breakdown of society stem from a severe financial crisis, leaving the Numbers gang to roam the streets and profit on their sex trafficking of young girls. Sawa is driven by vengeance, as the leader of the Numbers, The Eram (played by the only actor who seems to be having fun in this film), murdered her parents. With help from her father’s ex-partner (Samuel L. Jackson playing… Samuel L. Jackson), she wreaks havoc on The Eram’s trade, killing low-level clientele and working scum. The gang figures move like fast zombies from the Dawn of the Dead remake, Sawa is addicted to a drug called Amp that allows her to forget everything (except portions of her parents’ murder), and Jackson is the calmest person in the room.

This is the kind of post-apocalypse where people live in dingy, lens-flared shacks on city rooftops, and where armored school buses are used as transport. Financial crises and human trafficking are hot button issues right now. You’ll read about them in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, but here they’re just an excuse for set-pieces. Setting it in the future adds nothing to the characters or the plot, and in a way it trivializes matters that deserve grave consideration. And it certainly doesn’t explain why a financial crisis would cause so much random smoke.

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As Sawa, Eisley is a blank slate. Despite her performance being lackluster, the only interesting thing about Kite is the fact that her lust for vengeance gets so obscured that she rarely keeps on mission. She kills before getting leads: she’s too busy shoving a dildo-gun into someone’s mouth and firing. She’s robotically murderous, and any empathy the viewer might have towards her is lost with the development of the film’s flashbacks.

Unlike Kick-Ass, which featured the brutal beating of a pre-teen, Kite tries to justify the unforgiving brutality the young girl suffers. Sawa is so inexplicably, well, badass that you’ll be searching the credits for Luc Besson’s name. It’s not there. This is a film more shallow than Luc Besson’s worst.

Director Ralph Ziman is a member of the ADD generation. Shots are quick, over-lit, and filled with excessive violence to catch the eye. There is one clever set piece in which Sawa dispatches two security guards in a men’s urinal as her initial victims are indisposed, though it’s offset by a henchman with an inexplicable stutter, one of the film’s many attempts to be quirky that winds up just being embarrassing.

The main issue with Kite overall is that there are interesting ideas at play, but all of them are squandered. Sawa may be an Amp addict, but her real drug is vengeance.  Amp also allows you to forget, so it really deals with living in a world with no sense of history. Thanks to the Internet, we already live in a world like that and we’re carrying on just fine. Kite, non sequitur title and all, touches on these issues, but the fire got too hot for the filmmakers to go beyond a surface touch.

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balls of justice

Raging Balls of Steel Justice
Written and directed by Mike Mort
UK, 2014

A city skyline: a helicopter pushes ahead with its searchlight on. Escaped prisoners have kidnapped a super-important person and it’s up to one man to bring them down. That man is Chuck Steel.

Sounds fun, right? It’s not.

This film proved something revolting about the Fantasia Festival: its audience is far too eager to please. The premiere of this claymation short, written and directed by Mike Mort, had the room applauding and laughing at every violent death and bad testicle joke it could fit in to fifteen minutes.

Every action cliché is up for grabs for juvenile parody in this been-there-done-that film. So many that you start to groan once a recognizable premise begins. It would be fine if at least the kills were inventive, but they’ve all been done before. We’re left only with clay action figures who like bad dick jokes.

— Kenny Hedges

Raging Balls of Steel Justice screened before Kite. Please visit the official website of the Fantasia International Film Festival.