Frontier(s) (2007), or Torture Porn?! My Favorite!

8 09 2009

If anyone read my extensive Lust, Caution review (a good time to do that, coincidentally, would be now, using this link), I used this film at the end as an example of a movie that was NC-17 in 2007 that did not edit down to an R rating. It was the only example, in fact, so I was ready to off and call this an exemplary film. But objectivity must (or should) always win the day, so I decided to actually watch Frontier(s), and what I found was that while it does indeed deserve an NC-17 rating, and while it is incredibly brave of director Xavier Gens to keep this film unedited, it really is disappointingly generic and bland. It’s your typical torture porn film, like I Know Who Killed Me, Captivity, Funny Games, and Hostel. No worse, no better. The only difference is that Gens is not willing to blink for a single moment while the gruesome bits are on display.

After a bit of foreshadowing involving a pregnant main character, we are taken to the heart of Paris as a group of young miscreants use the cover of some political hubbub to plan a heist. During the announcement that a right-winger had won the presidency of France, we come to find that these kids have used the panic and uproar surrounding the event to conceal the fact that they have robbed a bank! It doesn’t go perfectly; one of the teens, Sami, is shot. But they escape with the money. They speed away from the town in a hurry, deciding to lay low for a while but pretty confident that they have made a clean getaway. Two of the youths decide to take their shot friend to an emergency room, and the other two head off with the money to find a place for all of them to meet up later. They get to the countryside in a hurry and decide to find a hotel to squirrel away in. The one they choose is a bit off, run by some eccentrics, but nothing tips them off that anything would be wrong (especially when one of the owners offers them some steamy sex! Yeah!). What they fail to realize is that the hotel is owned by a brutal and sadistic Neo-Nazi group who was just waiting to viciously kill them! Things look bleak for the two young Turks, and when they decide to call their friends, telling them to meet them there, they unwittingly invited them to the chopping block as well! What will become of our poor young bank robbers?

I’ll tell you what will become of them. They’re about to be violently tortured and possibly killed. In a movie like this, it’s pretty inevitable. Frontier(s) is France’s idea of torture porn, and it has a lot more potency than your standard Saw flick. Unfortunately, to get to those potent moments, we still have to play along with the silly waiting game that accompanies any film of this type. We have to be “lulled” into thinking that everything in this hotel seems harmless… AT FIRST!!! We have to pretend that the premise itself does not insist that there will be the usual touted tortures. It’s a rather pointless exercise that leads to a lot of sighing on my part as I wish that the setup climaxes in a timely manner. Director Xavier Gens puts up a good fight, but his movie falls short simply because he decided to delve into a genre that is rife with the attempts of imitators.

The film is certainly ballsy though. Although it doesn’t pay off often, when it does, the movie is simply beyond gruesome and spectacular for the hardcore horror fan. The set design is interesting, to say the least. Once the youths are brought into the deep and dark underground facility under the hotel, all bets for them, as well as the audience, are off. It’s wonderfully effective as an aesthetic statement. The tortures, of which there are many, are of mundane caliber but exceptional fearlessness. The characters are intriguing, and kudos do have to be given for making the victim setup to be somewhat more atypical than your normal summer getaway-gone-wrong. There are things to like about this movie, but it’s hard to detract from the fact that it’s been done before a thousand times over.

Honestly there’s not a whole lot to add. Besides describing the atrocious torture (I suppose my favorite would involve the hedge clippers) or spoiling things for you, there’s not much to say. Frontier(s) is a movie that had the courage to stand up to the ratings system and declare itself free from the confines of a decency rating, but at the same time commits an almost unforgivable crime of recycling previously seen scenarios. It’s like Hostel but with no Americans. It’s like Captivity without the sexual connotations. It’s like a lot of these movies, just tweaked a little bit. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to really separate it from the pack, and it leaves me wanting. But it’s not bad, all things considered, so I give Frontier(s) 6 1/2 pregnant French bank robbers out of 10. Au revoir!

Tomorrow I seek check out the not-too-distant future with The 6th Day! Until then!