Swab uses the character of Utah and narrator Vin (Frank Grillo) to uncover the incredibly lucrative business of getting bodies into beds at these treatment facilities with a revolving door. The treatment facilities get the government kickbacks, which are filtered down to the brokers who find the vulnerable and pay them to attend for 30 days. With a 10% success rate, business is booming for Vin and Wood. This premise finds Utah as he successfully goes through treatment and finally decides to become a broker himself.
Visually isolating the outdoor scenes are empty and the characters take center stage. Interestingly, Utah’s involvement in the brokering is shown in a cold and sterile way, while the drug den’s and external drug rehab groups are represented in warm lighting and a cluttered atmosphere. Enhancing the sense of Utah wanting to have his foot in both camps but unable to truly make a decision between the moral or immoral path not having much guidance.
BODY BROKERS is an uncomfortable and eye-opening film that keeps you engaged until the end. This is mostly to do with the interesting choice in storytelling, which made it hard to pinpoint the direction. It made the slow burn feel like a climactic build that eventually led nowhere. Saying this, the expose itself on the business of drug treatment facilities was performed and portrayed in such a way it felt uncomfortable and sleazy to even be told this information.
A lot like Vin, who was exceptionally acted by Grillo, the two paths for Utah are plain to see. His life with drugs or the life that can get him out – which unfortunately means he has to play the game and play the system. The balance between his newfound love interest, the human stories, and Wood’s life kept you invested in Utah. Hoping his decisions will get him to a good place, or at least make a stand against the heartless acts of this system.
BODY BROKERS produced a lot of insight that makes this an important film. Unfortunately, the lack of direction in the filmmaking style made it difficult to know if this was a drama or redemption story, or both. It may have worked in Swab’s favor in the end because it keeps you on your toes throughout. The film attracted a great cast of actors who were well placed in their roles. This film leaves the audience with a lot to think about, which is exactly what this kind of film needs to do. While the moral of the story is vague (and probably very realistic), it is successful in creating a unique mood and style of storytelling which keeps you guessing. As Vin says, “How do you end a never-ending story?”
BODY BROKERS is available on DVD from Eagle Entertainment.
Visually we are placed in the snowy mountainous regions, muted colours, and gentle lighting. We meet Ethan and Josh, amidst the snow creating a dream-like haze, they have a father and son lesson in defending themselves from the infected. The more interesting elements of the back-story start straight away where they reveal that the infected are attracted to heat. The infected themselves look understated but are very effective, with minimal make-up or special effects. This first scene results in the first series of events, Ethan gets bitten.
In between the main storyline they provide flashbacks of their lives before the virus took hold. The first flashback scene was one of my favourite scenes of the film. It set up Joe and Ethan’s relationship in an effective and clever way, which provided the initial empathy towards their current dynamic, which after Ethan is bitten is very distant and cold.
The way Tobias and Reisner built-up character development, ended up overshadowing the storyline of how the virus got out. Mostly because the long conversations seemed less important than the action sequences. Meanwhile also in combination with that, trying to foreshadow scenarios that just fell short and were too generic for a well-established genre.
The realism of this world works well and compliments the focus of the story, which is essentially the relationships between the family members. Josh, the son, is by far the most interesting character. He is quite optimistic and realistic when interacting with his parents, who tend to be sombre and corny at times.
This is interesting when Ethan and Joe are trying to teach Josh how to survive when they quite clearly have no idea what they are doing. Josh steps up to the responsibility when needed and is the unsung hero of the film. He even has his own bad-ass weapon, a slingshot. Which is surprisingly effective but again under-utilised. These elements made it feel like Josh is the one that needed redemption, but it is obvious that Ethan and Joe were meant to be the main focus.
F.E.A.R is more of a drama than an action-orientated horror which misses the story beats that could have elevated it to a great film. The overarching story got lost in character development which caused the ‘build and release’ scenarios to be less impactful. It is instead, a technically successful film with great visual appeal and brilliant acting. While it reminds me of a modern-day version of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, it could have (but doesn’t) brought something new to the zombie genre.