Tiger director Alister Grierson may have just inadvertently found an action star in actor Ben O’Toole, having made ample use of the Nekotronic star for an action horror vehicle that’s inclined to employ more action movie puns in its introspection than you might expect.
For this, we’re talking Bloody Hell, which propels you into the bleak evening scenery of a young girl’s escape from a menacing family, to the affable daytime setting of Boise, Idaho. Enter Rex (O’Toole), a former soldier home from war, a seemingly normal human being albeit possibly suffering from PTSD (or worse) and currently in the midst of trying to woo a beautiful bank employee when a quartet of would-be bank robbers make their deadly entry.
A few moments pass before Rex retaliates and takes matters into his own hands, saving nearly all the hostages in the process, that is, all but one, and after an eight-year stint prison, a chance spit-ball hit on a map encourages the newly-released “hero” to journey to Finland, in order to escape the intrusive rigmarole of being a famous (or infamous, depending on your perceptions) in a small town.
Little does Rex know, he’s become the target of a family of oddball-types, after being scouted by a couple at the airport, and being kidnapped upon his taxi ride. After waking up bound and crippled in a dingy basement, and with his mental state as the only means of governing what sense he has left as he tries to free himself, it becomes painfully clear who his captors are and why he’s there, and with any luck, the family’s unwitting daughter, Alia (Meg Fraser), may just provide him a fighting chance he needs to escape.
Bloody Hell is rightly billed as yet another elevator in Australian genre cinema with Grierson crafting a dark comedy that pokes fun at itself, with a congruent storyline and narrative that places mental illness at the forefront of something grim, spectacular and fun without cheapening it. The twists in characterization throughout the film serve as a noteworthy anchor to the dual, cerebral chaos in the backdrop of our main character, played brilliantly by O’Toole in multiple dimensions, and to an even greater benefit for Fraser’s character in the finale.
The story veers left at certain points, venturing briefly into the bizzare with our characters, Rex and Alia, in their own imaginary happy places, and the film isn’t afraid to take these up a notch on the weirdness scale in at least one moment. Those oddities serve amply to the benefit of the film’s action horror millieu, with enough gore and misdirection to heighten the film’s suspense, silliness, and excitement, while exploring Rex’s character right down to the big reveals, and the entrenched guilt of our hero as a result.
Key details are being left out of this review apart from the usual non-spolier guidelines of these reviews, and for good reason. Going into this film albeit blind with but a nifty handful of suggestive imagery seen in the most recent trailer to go by, will be sure to oblige you with some neat surprises and thrills along the way. Bloody Hell is a hell of a good time to spent with a genre flick, and you’d be wise to take notice of O’Toole in the meantime as well, because he’s simply badass.
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Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Meg Fraser
Brett Thornquest, Joshua Paul
Alister Grierson, Robert Benjamin
North American Premiere