Inspired by true events, The Cutlass tells the story of a young woman who is abducted following a robbery and taken into the far reaches of the wilderness. With little chance of escape, she soon realizes how reliant she must be in order to survive and seeks to find out more about her abductors’ true intentions. It’s not every day that you get to see a bit of Trinidadian cinema, however it seems that after winning a couple of awards at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, there has been a real impetus from all those involved to get this film released worldwide. In the hopes of breaking new ground, The Cutlass has already made its international debut as part of the Marche du Film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and now it’s arriving to our shores for our very own viewing pleasure.
Directed by Darisha J. Beresford, The Cutlass is an interesting piece of cinema which wears its heart on its sleeve. Although there are times when the directing falls into amateurish territory, Beresford is able to keep the action grounded enough for the actors to take centre-stage. Lisa-Bel Hirschmann portrays Joanna Soloman, a young woman who is taken from her friends at gunpoint and forced into the precarious terrain of the Trinidadian jungle, whereas Arnold Goindhan plays Al, a petty thief who’s in way over his head with the local gangsters. Both actors are able to form a decent amount of chemistry throughout thanks to the unique power struggle that both characters face over the course of a couple of days.
Unfortunately, Teneille Newallo’s script does at times falter for a number of reasons; whether it be the unwarranted narration over the top of certain scenes, or the strange tonal shifts in conversations, it all begins to slowly lose authenticity and loosen the impact of what's going on. Newallo does have good intentions, however, as the film attempts to highlight the social and political undercurrents that plague certain members of Trinidadian society. Although there are times when the overall flow is impeded, both lead actors are able to do just enough to save the film’s blushes.
Overall, The Cutlass is an interesting attempt at a very worthy premise. Containing some beautiful shots throughout, viewers will be drawn to the breathtaking visuals on screen. With solid performances by the two main actors, it's refreshing to see well-rounded characters in a film of this nature who don't fall victim to stereotyping. It’s a shame, though, that certain performances by other members of the cast and crew ultimately give the movie a distinctly televisual feel. An uneven effort with noble intentions, The Cutlass ultimately suffers from an overbaked script and questionable directing.
THE CUTLASS / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: DARISHA J. BERESFORD / SCREENPLAY: TENEILLE NEWALLO / STARRING: LISA-BEL HIRSCHMANN, ARNOLD GOINDHAN / RELEASE DATE: TBC