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The vigilante film often takes one of two paths: the brooding character study and the exploitation piece. The "Death Wish" series for instance started as a character study and then quickly morphed over multiple sequels into over-the-top exploitation, propelling a mild mannered architect pushed by tragedy to reclaim his streets into a dispenser of justice on par with any overly muscled action star of the day. "The Demolisher" a low-budget 2015 offering from Canadian writer/director Gabriel Carrer attempts to straddle both those lines in a scant 85-minutes including credits. The tale of Bruce (Ry Barrett) a cable repairman who finds himself caring for a wife badly injured in a gang ambush while on duty as a cop. In the darkest moments of the night though, he dons riot gear and sets his sights on retribution as the titular figure.
The mere concept of "The Demolisher" makes it an intriguing oddity in the genre, which has all but gone the way of the exploitation/action genre or the occasional heavy-handed pseudo political statement via Hollywood. Undeniably slick looking with a electronically tinged soundtrack pulsing throughout from Glen Nicholls, "The Demolisher" often feels like an exploitation film in its most chaotic and charged moments, before quickly slamming on the emergency brake to intensely brood in the mind of our anti-hero during the days that break up his question for vengeance. When the film isn't tracking Bruce on the streets, it's quite obtusely laying out the foundations for his vengeance through disjointed flashbacks and extremely minimalist dialogue. It quickly becomes apparent that the short runtime may actually be too much time to fill as "The Demolisher" runs out of steam before it can get moving in the first place.
For a small independent film, it's alarming that the film has six separate combined story and screenplay credits, making me very curious as to who the narrative evolved over the course of production. At times "The Demolisher" wants to be an arthouse character study, but nothing in this vein is able to sink in long enough or establish itself as meriting such an approach before the film shifts gears to track ancillary characters who only become important in the films final act. Speaking of the final act, it's only here where "The Demolisher" shows a cohesion of exploitation and character study, offering viewers a sobering look at what actual vigilantism does to the mind of a real human being. It's a chaotic final 20 minutes that strike a great balance between suspense and introspection. It also offers an alternate take on the film as one could interpret it as a look at what one would expect if a faceless stalker from any action/horror offering tried to live a normal life in between the killing. It's a bit of a stretch, but the seeds are definitely planted in shallow fashion throughout.
Ultimately, despite a few promising scenes and an accomplished visual style, "The Demolisher" fails to resonate at all. The acting is often stilted and does the messy screenplay no favors. The action while aiming for that exploitation feel, is often undersold and half-baked. The 85-minute runtime is just too much time to be spent with an anemic idea; perhaps if the feature had been furthered distilled to a 40-odd minute short, the concepts would have hit the mark more firmly and a product worth watching would have materialized. As it stands, "The Demolisher" is a forgettable entry in the genre and only for the most ravenous fans of that genre to begin with.
The 2.35:1 1080p widescreen transfer is the most stunning aspect of the whole affair. Detail is strong and devoid of unnecessary digital noise. Colors are striking depending on the setting; with the daytime sequences a warm, semi-Earthen palette and the nights cold, dark, and neon. Contrast levels are generally balanced, with only the darkest of sequences losing some clarity amid the shadows.
The 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn't quite match the visuals in terms of HD quality. The score comes through intensely with an often deep bass pulse; dialogue on the other hand as sparse as it is, often feels muted. Apart from the score, there's not a lot of atmosphere coming from the surrounds and overall, the sound design and presentation saps the film of its energy in places. An English 2.0 track is also offered as well as English SDH subtitles.
The extras for "The Demolisher" feature a roughly 10-minute EPK style "behind the scenes" look, a short deleted scenes reel is also included, and the highlight is a nearly 30-minute Q&A session following a theatrical screening with cast and crew, where one does get the distinct impression overtly and subtly, that the idea of what the film was to ultimately be changed often. There's a lot of passion involved with everyone here, and no one can doubt after watching it, that there was a noble intent to make a multi-layered film.
With a merely average audio track and crisp looking visuals, the Blu-Ray release of "The Demolisher" gets the most minor recommendation. The film is an often confusing mess to sort out and doesn't hit enough necessary beats to satisfy those looking for a character study nor a straight up exploitation/action piece. If you've seen every vigilante film out there, "The Demolisher" is an interesting, highly flawed curiosity. Rent It.