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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.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and generally looks good. Colors and detail will wash out occasionally in direct sunlight, but the image is clear and bright.
The audio is in Dolby digital 2 channel, and is clear throughout, with no problem understanding the dialogue. No hiss or other issue is audible. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included.
There are a number of extras included on the disc. Since this is a Troma release, there are of course the generic Troma trailer and Lloyd Kaufman's tongue in cheek introduction, with Debbie Rochon assisting in this case. The other extras are:
Running about 1:15, the trailer is unremarkable.
This minute and a half of publicity stills, behind the scene photos and shots from the film is about what one would expect.
Commentary by Director Adrian Santiago
This is the most significant extra on the disc. Santiago seems to be very much a personable fellow who is passionate about his film and interested in quality. This does not seem to have translated to greatness on the screen. However, Santiago does relate a lot of anecdotes about the production that are quite interesting (including finding abandoned furniture and a pile of burned beanie babies on a clandestine location shoot, and filming the whole thing on one expansive property) and shed some light on the process of independent film making. This is the most interesting feature included.
As with all recent Troma releases, there are a number of Troma related extras included here. Unfortunately, many of these seem to be identical to the extras on a number of other Troma discs. The Troma T&A and the Vintage Troma segments are the exact same ones from at least a couple of other releases, as well as Lemmy from Motorhead's PSA about hermaphrodites. It would be nice if Troma could come up with a few original items to include in the future. Trailers are also included for a number of Troma films.
Grim has a good premise, but not a lot else going for it. The story is poorly paced and often dull. The action scenes are anemic. The performances are competent, but not exceptional. The blood effects and locations are impressive in themselves, but can't begin to carry the film. It's largely a disappointment.