Catch the Fair One

Kali Reis as Kaylee

Catch the Fair One is a game of two halves kind of movie, absolutely the wrong metaphor for a story incidentally set in the world of boxing, and starring a boxer in her acting debut. Kali Reis not only plays the similarly named Kaylee, but also co-created the story, with director Josef Kubota Wladyka.

Who came up with the fractured chronology is less clear and it doesn’t help a film that could most easily be described as a young woman’s search for her lost sister. Wrinkles come courtesy of the fact that Kaylee is also a female boxer and that her sister is the real daughter of a Native American mother, whereas Kaylee is a black Cape Verdean and most likely adopted – what this film leaves unexplained definitely adds to its power.

The chronology though… A for-instance. We meet Kaylee preparing for a fight. Bandaging the hands, shadow-boxing with her trainer, Brick (Shelly Vincent, who has the boxer physique and features because she used to be one) – “up, down, one two, one two” – and then cut to Kaylee in prison. What is she doing in prison? Is this before the fight? After it? Why is this tough boxer afraid to go into the shower on her own? Why has she got a razor blade secreted inside her mouth?

Kaylee and two people tied up
Don’t get on the wrong side of Kaylee



Best not dwell on all that. Instead let’s follow Kaylee as she follows a lead that missing sister Weeta might have disappeared as part of some massive operation involving the sex trafficking of young women. Kaylee turns sleuth and follows the increasingly warm trail from one sleazy locale to another. Wladyka does scuzziness well – grim motel rooms with smeared mirrors, deserted industrial areas, a truck stop, the negative space under a freeway, aided by a muted colour palette by DP Ross Giardina suggesting dirt smeared across every surface.

Reis is a good addition to a familiar type – the busted-flush detective – but truly comes into her own when the movie pivots at the halfway point into something that’s also familiar but a different type of offer. Once Kaylee has worked out who’s responsible for the disappearance of sister Weeta, the cinematography suddenly loses its milky edge, everything sharpens up a touch, the pace gets into a higher gear and the ghost of Liam Neeson and his special set of skills start to stalk what’s become more a revenge movie.

Nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t want to watch a deranged badass waterboarding a suspect (for starters), while his wife and child look on? The transformation is incredibly unlikely, especially considering that earlier sequence establishing Kaylee as being timid in jail. Unless, of course, all that stuff happened after this stuff, which might be the case.

It’s confusing. Best, again, to just stick to the plot, which is simple and enjoyable and propelled by Reis, who’s convincing and likeable – the multiple piercings and extensive tatting coming over as a case of protesting a bit too much. She’s a nice young woman really. The casting of minor characters really add to the atmosphere. Daniel Henshall, Kevin Dunn and Lisa Emery don’t say an awful lot but give off a real belt of venal menace as the family at the centre of the trafficking. And Tiffany Chu, as the wife of one of the traffickers, spends most of her time with duct tape over her mouth yet manages to suggest that she’s perhaps more of a victim than she appears.

Inadequate white men do the strangest shit is the guiding idea behind Catch the Fair One, though Kaylee’s semi-detached membership of a Native American family does its best to disturb a narrative that seems driven by race.

There’s good stuff in here. Good performances. It’s well made. Telling its story straight wouldn’t have hurt it at all. It works for Mr Neeson.



Catch the Fair One – Watch it/buy it at Amazon



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© Steve Morrissey 2022









The Snowtown Murders

Snowtown, starring Daniel Henshall and Lucas Pittaway

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

17 February

 

 

Jeffrey Dahmer sentenced, 1992

On this day in 1992, Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer, aka the Milwaukee Cannibal, was sentenced for the murder of 15 men and boys. Dahmer had pleaded guilty at the trial and the case had revolved around the question of his sanity. The jury had found him sane, and that his cannibalism and necrophilia were a result of badness rather than madness, a verdict Dahmer entirely agreed with. Dahmer had committed his first murder aged 18, and over the following years was frequently arrested on charges of indecent exposure and sexual assault, all the while luring men to various places where he would generally give them alcohol laced with pills. He would then kill them, perform some form of sexual act on them before dismembering them, stripping their flesh with acid and pulverising their bones. Dahmer was caught when one of his intended victims punched him and escaped, then flagged down a police car. When the police visited Dahmer’s apartment with the intended victim to verify his story, they found Polaroids of dead people and a man’s head in the fridge.

 

 

 

Snowtown (2011, dir: Justin Kurzel)

Snowtown is based on the true story of Australia’s worst serial killer. What makes it unusual is its approach. We appear to be inside a fairly average Australian blue-collar family. Average for its first couple of minutes at least, until writer Shaun Grant and director Justin Kurzel start giving us hints of a bigger picture. Why has the old guy over the road been photographing the children of this family? Why were they naked? Who is the weird old transvestite gangster who suddenly pops up? Why is his henchman Bunting (Daniel Henshall) so friendly with the family, whom he immediately takes under his wing? Is Henshall’s initial solution to the problem of the old guy over the road’s behaviour – a couple of buckets of kangaroo offcuts and some daubs of paint – rough but fair local justice, or should the police have been involved? Most pertinently, has the central focus of this film – the good-looking, dim but amiable Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) – been buggered by his brother and also molested by his mother’s new boyfriend? It’s at the revelation of this key piece of information (don’t worry, I’ll go no further with plot spoilers) that the drama slides from the off-key into the grim, as Jamie is co-opted by the terrifying Bunting to be accomplice to a series of murders that start with the almost justifiable but slide quickly into murkier and more obviously disproportionate territory. We see everything through Jamie’s eyes – he starts the film in the power of one pair of bad guys and ends up in the thrall of another, a stocky chatty man who dominates totally, controls absolutely and is all twinkles until you cross him. What a powerful film this is, a portrait of a killer not from the point of view of a victim, or the man himself, or the cop on the case, but of a kid he co-opts to go along with him. As such it’s fuzzy, not everything is explained. Yet this only serves to enhance the awful foreboding – Jamie is out of control of the situation. But that’s the way his whole life has been. Bunting is, in some respects, his hero.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • A great argument against vigilante justice – look at the psychos you’d be licensing
  • A powerful portrait of how abuse crushes the soul
  • Daniel Henshall’s amazingly fierce performance
  • Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, of Animal Kingdom fame

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Snowtown aka The Snowtown Murders – at Amazon