The revenge narrative is one of the most powerful archetypal stories in literature. Variations abound, and if done well, there are few tales more emotionally satisfying. Writer / director Adrian Santiago tries his hand at the genre in the low budget, Texas produced film Grim, but handles it clumsily, and fails to achieve anywhere near the impact it could have had.
Nicholas Grim (Christopher Dimock and Jack Pinder, who plays the young Grim) saw his parents murdered before his eyes by members of the United American Brigade, a group thugs who take it upon themselves to restore order in Texas after an economic apocalypse has collapsed the government. Mostly, they just pimp and fight and carouse, and extract protection money from the hapless citizens. Grim is taken in by Alan and Emma Rose (Todd Gable & Mary Winchester), and raised as their adopted son, teaching him about honor and guns along the way.
Soon after Grim comes of age, Alan and Emma are themselves killed by Atticus (Scott A. Mollette), the leader of the UAB, who along with Cutter (Brad Hartliep) and Romeo (Niko Red Star) murdered his biological parents. Grim feels he has little choice in the matter, and determines to kill the three men the first chance he gets. At times, it seems that Grim is little better than his opponents. He starts off his search for his enemies by torturing a UAB member to extract information about their whereabouts. Grim walks all the way to the UAB stronghold, and quickly dispatches one of his targets, meeting a friendly prostitute named Celina (Brandi Price) along the way, who helps him with the murder. Grim escapes the wrath of Atticus, and takes refuge with Celina's brother Tino (Jason Ramirez), whose help for the fugitive soon lands him in hot water as well. Gun battles and hostage exchanges and assassinations follow, but everything is less exciting than it may seem from this description.
Grim has a lot of problems, not necessarily related to its low budget. There are a few areas where extra money could have helped, but the set dressing and effects are actually quite effective. No, the real problems here are structural and performance related. The film is poorly paced. Much too much time is spent on the initial murder of Grim's parents, which could have been compressed to a minute or two and been much more powerful. There are also long scenes of people just standing together talking, often just to provide back story or exposition, and with long pauses thrown in to boot. The actors are mostly decent, though unable to reach the emotional levels they need to at times, and the emotional range seems quite constricted across the board. Grim himself is almost emotionless, and both Alan and Atticus have a decidedly flat affect. Romeo and Tino both express more on that level, but both also veer dangerously close to parody.
The various fights and battles are also less than exciting. The wide shots and loose editing drain most of the energy out of the action, and though the blood effects are of good quality and suitably bombastic, the viewer never feels invested in the outcome. Moreover, the narrative never hits the necessary beats to make Grim's revenge meaningful in any way. There is no thrill of watching the wicked smitten by the hand of justice. The plot is just too sloppy to build up tension and provide the necessary emotional release. The viewer never cares one way or another whether Grim succeeds in his task or not, and that is deadly for a film of this type. Grim has a few good points, but is strictly a rental only.
Commentary by Director Adrian Santiago