Well made… but really, really hard to watch.

This has been a tough week movie-wise for me.  While I have seen some excellent films, I must say that a few of them were so violent and so disturbing that it makes me want to take a break and seen something pleasant.  After all, generally films should be enjoyable and the last two I’ve seen were incredibly well made but extremely upsetting to watch.  And, Repentance DEFINITELY makes me want to take a break from violent films.

Repentance begins with a couple drunken men driving home from a binge.  The driver is a mess and hits some pedestrian and then you see the car smash.  Suddenly, the movie jumps forward four years.  The driver of the car, Tommy Carter (Anthony Mackie), is a respected author who writes new age self-help books.  He’s at a book signing and Angel (Forest Whitaker) tells him that he loves his books—so much that he’d love to have some one on one counseling.  However, Tommy declines–saying he’s too busy and doesn’t take on clients any more.

Directed by
Philippe Caland
Anthony Mackie, Forest Whitaker, Sanaa Lathan
Release Date
28 February 2014
Martin’s Grade: B+

Soon Tommy’s ne’er do well brother arrives from prison and demands that Tommy give him a lot of money because he ‘owes him’.  You assume it probably has something to do with the opening scene, as the brother was the passenger in the car of the night of the accident.  So, reluctantly, Tommy decides to take Angel on as a client to get money for the brother.

The work Tommy does with Angel is like a combination of being a life coach and a lot of new age mysticism and ceremonies.  The problem is that this sort of work might work fine for reasonably well adjusted folks, but it’s very obvious that Angel is emotionally disturbed…very emotionally disturbed.  Freaking crazy emotionally disturbed!  Angel hallucinates and clearly should be seen by a team of psychiatrists—not some self-taught counselor.  However, Tommy decides to treat the man.  Further, he feels that Angel’s problems can be solved by him stop taking his medication, working through some grieving ceremonies and thinking positive thoughts!

Soon, Angel descends further and further into madness.  Now it’s obvious to Tommy that he’s way in over his head—his brand of feel-good counseling is no match for 100% nuts!  At first, he unwisely ignores Angel’s requests for more sessions and later he goes to Angel’s house to tell him that he needs to get help that he cannot give him—professional help.  And then….things get violent and really, really crazy!  Tommy is attacked and awakens in a basement—bound and at the mercy of a man who is out of his mind.  Believe it or not, this is only about a third of the way into the film.  What follows is terrifying and Tommy is tormented by this madman.  But there’s more…far more.  Exactly what’s next you’ll need to see for yourself.

While I thought Repentance was a very good film—especially because of its acting and clever twists—I also thought it was very hard for the average person to watch.  After all, much of the film involves torture.  There is a lot of blood and the film is definitely NOT for the squeamish.  It also has a lot of loose ends that are deliberately left that way at the end of the film.  I didn’t mind that at all, as I like films where the viewers can debate exactly what will happen next.  My wife, though, hates films with such endings and I doubt if I ever could get her to watch a film like this.

So is it appropriate for you?  Well, if you could sit through Misery, you might be able to handle this one okay, but it’s a bit gorier and more difficult to watch.  It certainly is NOT a film for kids, your mother or anyone else who is looking for a feel good film!  But, in its defense, the film IS well done, has some clever writing and delivers a very powerful punch.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer