DEADLY VIRTUES / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ATE DE JONG / SCREENPLAY: MARK ROGERS / STARRING: EDWARD AKROUT, MATT BARBER, MEGAN MACZKO / RELEASE DATE: 28th SEPTEMBER
Ever see someone all tied up in a horror film and think, “Oh, come on! I could get out of that easily!”? Not so the bondage of Deadly Virtues, a British home invasion thriller which fuses its realistic brutality with equally plausible, inescapable ropework. Forget the pretentious, relatively vanilla Christian Grey – the antagonist of Deadly Virtues is a shoe-sniffing, dildo-licking, shibari-abusing weirdo who makes fifty shades of fucked up (yes, I read it) look like the pinnacle of mental health by comparison.
Breaking into our hero and heroine's home as they canoodle in the bedroom, bondage bastard Aaron (Akrout) knocks hubby Tom (Barber) out with a cosh made of rope and chokes poor Alison (Maczko) into unconsciousness. The pair wake up bound and gagged – Tom in the bathtub, Alison suspended from the ceiling. The whole house is transformed into Aaron's red room as he proceeds to use and abuse the couple like his own private playthings. What follows is like (a slightly less pretentious) Funny Games crossed with (a much more pretentious) Bound.
Directed by Drop Dead Fred's Ate de Jong (!), Deadly Virtues is a stylish, classy thriller which should give the art-house crowd plenty to talk about. The Marquis de Sade book subtly placed on the mantelpiece suggests that everything is deliberately done and, like Aaron's ropework, intricately delicate. It looks great, even as the story goes to some less than savoury places. At first, it seems as though Aaron is going to be your run-of-the-mill rapey psychopath, exemplified during a particularly unpleasant shower scene. That's easier to handle, however, than the later action, during which Aaron decides to wait for the onset of Stockholm syndrome before making his move. Edward Akrout does his best, but his nice guy act is even creepier than his sadist material. Better that than poor Matt Barber, who essentially spends most of the film tied up in the bathtub crying, then, when he does get something to do, becomes the worst thing about Deadly Virtues. That leaves poor Megan Maczo, trapped between a cock and a hardcase. Ideally, she'd get at least one scene to kick ass (even Naomi Watts got her hands on a shotgun in Funny Games) but de Jong's story is too artful for something so crowd-pleasing. Then there's the cameo from Sadie Frost (!!) at the end, finishing the film on as oddball a note as it started.
A film as hypnotic as it is distasteful, Deadly Virtues certainly bears checking out. Like the art of bondage, it's not for everyone, but those who can appreciate such things should enjoy it. Deadly or otherwise, it does have its virtues.