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Donkey Punch

August 4, 2008
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We all have our favourite corpse disposal movies, I’m sure. Rope, Shallow Grave, Very Bad Things, Eating Raoul, Delicatessen. Weekend at Bernie’s. It’s a neat little sub-genre that, done well, can throw up some gleefully pitch black frissons of excitement and even – The Last Supper, say – stir up the odd bit of social commentary. Nabbing a ride on the back of something extreme has always been a good way of making a point, after all, like the dark seam in Volver surrounding the getting rid of Raimunda’s shitty and violent husband.

Brit thriller Donkey Punch comes to the party, then, asking for a seat at the table along with some pretty decent company. To read the crits screaming out of the poster you’d think that you were in for a major treat. Are we really about to experience “the sexiest, most shocking thriller of the year”? No, sadly. Lest it be forgotten, sexy and shocking have both been more than adequately handled in theatres this year by All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, [●REC], El Orfanato, and many many more.

Donkey Punch (urban slang for a violent whack to the neck during sex that causes a convulsion hightening the orgasm for a man, just to get that out of the way) sets up three Leeds lasses, Tammi, Kim and Lisa, holidaying in Spain to try and forget their rubbish exes and have a few giggles. Within minutes they’ve bumped up against the wrong sort, a gang of posh ne’er-do-wells with their own yacht, who basically just fancy wining dining and 69ing the girls. A few Es and lots of voddies later, and they’re all getting it on in a pretty full-on clusterfuck recorded with the obligatory digicam by the equally obligatory too-excited-to-be-trusted naive young chap with ‘loose cannon’ writ large all over him.

When he eventually dips into the tag team rumpy he unwisely attempts the Punch of the title and kills one of the girls stone dead.

Now. Time out.

Let’s have a little think. What would you do at this point? No, not as a participant in the scenario, but as the director of the movie? Firstly, put some kecks on all your cast. Realism is laudable, but having people standing around floppy-dicked and shouting derivative dialogue is frankly ridiculous. Several minutes drift foolishly by here, as the protagonists try and work out what to do, and having a bit of incidental schlongage just made the audience I saw this with chortle merrily. Any goodwill built up – of which, to be honest, there wasn’t a tremendous amount – just vanished out the exit and away into the cinema foyer. And it was unlikely to come back because every move from this moment on is something we’ve seen a thousand times before. Charitably, you might allow yourself to think the premise is novel enough to gain some interest, and the cast are mostly competent too, but as the boys fight over the disposal of the body, and the girls go into wibbly panic, the whole thing just gets silly and massively predictable.

You’d think, of course, that moving on to the boat might make the staginess at least a little bit claustraphobic, but not a bit of it. “It’s like the TARDIS,” boasts one of the lads to their conquests, and indeed the luxurious surroundings are pretty impressive, but it doesn’t help with the tension at all. Unlike Dead Calm, which is so superior as to make me feel embarassed for mentioning it, Donkey Punch doesn’t utilise its surroundings at all, and if you weren’t regularly reminded you’d think you were in a hotel or penthouse apartment rather than a pokey box surrounded by water. It’s a scenario wasted, a chance gone begging.

Once the body’s sent to the bottom of the drink, the standard paranoias set in, scuffles and accidents and the eye-rolling use of safety flares (of course) change and re-set the dynamics between the dwindling group of survivors. I needn’t go on really, but it should be said that some of the offings are very incompetently handled, and the final tussle, to use a technical film term, is pants.

Donkey Punch swaggers into the light promising a good time, but slinks away with its tail between its legs. All mouth and no trousers.

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