Run time: 96 min
Genres: Action | Crime | Drama
Director: Raul Inglis
Writers: Raul Inglis, Matthew Robert Kelly
Stars: Lou Diamond Phillips, Estella Warren, Deborah Kara Unger
Five years ago David’s life came undone when his young daughter fell victim to a brutal attack. The subsequent emotional fallout cost him his marriage and his job. Handicapped by guilt and anguish David abandoned his past and alienated himself. He took a second rate job as a security guard and plodded on – his wounds concealed but unhealed. All it would take is a scratch for them to open wide and consume him…. During a routine security inspection, David discovers a young Serbian girl stowed in the cab of a truck. Her sister and other girls have been murdered – all victims of a perfidious human trafficking racket. She pleads for his help. This is his chance at retribution. This time he will champion the young girl that places her trust in him. But David is taking on Goliath and he has his back against the wall and a gun at his head. Enlisting the help of a woman’s refuge counselor, David embarks on a do or die mission to save the girl. Written by Anna Galvin
|Plot Keywords: security guard, white slave trade, sexual exploitation, misogynist, one night stand|
Release Date: 16 April 2010 (USA)
Budget: $2,000,000 (estimated)
This is a great throwback action film, like the Death Wish series and Dirty Harry, however as there is not as much killing, making it modern and believable. There are elements of the one man army Rambo/Commando psychology, but not silly and you sense genuine fear from Lou's character. The plot is easy to follow, a security guard finds a trafficked Serbian girl and relates saving her to the loss of his daughter to a rapist while he was a cop. Everything seemed strong and engaging, the style of dialog is natural and well suited to the players. I would say that this is a great film to get into. Always great to feel old if you remember Young Guns…..Oh and Young Guns 2.
What is it that makes a film good? Is it the acting? Is it the story? Is it the setting? Is it the twists and the turns? Perhaps it's the ability the film has to be original. Or what about the message it leaves with the audience?
Transparency may not be the most original film ever conceived (human trafficking is by now a mainstream topic), but I've always been of the belief that a film, like any story, is a sum of its parts. With that considered, Transparency packs a surprisingly powerful punch, especially for a film made of only half a million dollars.
I first watched this movie over a month ago on the movie network and to be honest, I wasn't sure at first why I liked it- I just knew I did. Like a good piece of music, sometimes not being able to instantly define why you like it is what makes it worthwhile. As such, I had to watch it again a few times to figure out what was it was about the film that worked so well for me. Eventually, a few different things came through.
1- The acting. LDP acts his butt off in this film. At every turn Phillips is able to convey a great sense of depth and pain as he interacts with both the people and facts that his world is revealed to be made up of. Special props also have to go to Deborah Kara Unger for her portrayal of the corporation's emotionless envoy to David. Despite a complaint from one viewer who seemed to think she should have played herself as a two dimensional James Bond villain, I would argue the deadpan flatness of her character was what made her so menacing.
2- The action. Every scene is quite fast paced and rough, and yet the film is able to move beyond your typical shoot em up action shows because it is able to communicate a sense of authenticity.
3- The ending. Quite simply, Transparency has one of the most hard hitting endings I have ever seen. There are a bunch of different elements that come together for this- including the acting, the scene editing, the background voice of the corporation's spokesperson and the vagueness of the men in black (all of which were done so expertly it was astounding)- but special credit has to be given to the writer, director and especially whoever wrote the score. Never under estimate the power of music to influence our perception of events that are occurring. The calmness of the score (and the beauty of it) is such a sharp 180 degree turn from what we're used to throughout the show that it literally creates a completely different setting for the audience to perceive even though the characters are physically still in the same area. When coupled with the writer and director's brilliant refusal to allow the movie to fall into a Hollywood cliché, the ending is able to seal the movie beautifully.
Now, that being said, is it perfect? No, it's not. While the script is certainly passable, I didn't find it to be anything special(save for the back and forth between Phillips and Unger right near the end of the movie which was fantastic), and the introduction recall scenes seemed poorly placed, edited and introduced, giving the first few minutes of the film a bit of a "B movie feel". Also the amount of bullets LDP seems to dodge, or at least survive, during the middle section of the movie is a little bit out there. However, and thankfully, these minor things don't manage to take away from the overall feel of the movie.
Which leads me to another topic I want to touch on.
I've read a few other reviews calling the movie contrived while, at the same time, comparing it to Taken and Die Hard. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I can't say I agree with the ones that have been expressed here. There are certainly elements of both films (given the whole sex trafficking topic and gun battles) but, this is not your typical Hollywood shoot em up film. Which makes it all the more odd to me that a criticism like "contrived" would be applied to Transparency (save for the first few minutes of the film). After all, the good guy most likely- even though we don't see it- dies at the end of the film. Most of the people he even comes into contact with are rounded up, jailed or killed. There is no happy ending or reunification for 'most' of the protagonists, and the antagonist is not defeated. There are, however, two things provided- hope and a message. Even though the bad guys are not bested, the protagonist is just barely able to sneak through a win. I almost get the feeling like Inglis and Kelly wanted to revisit the old idea that victory is not necessarily measured by survival, but sometimes through something more intangible- sacrifice. Going back again to the ending, LDP, Inglis, Kelly and the composer deliver that message with such grace and ferocity that I was both shocked and dumbfounded at the same time.
It is David VS Goliath, but done with realism and pragmatism. When all is said and done, you're not really sure who has won and who has lost. If that's what goes for contrived these days, I need to see more films.
If you're looking for Hollywood endings, and hugs and kisses, go watch something else. If you're looking for something realistic, yet not entirely without hope at the end, and is able to provide a worthwhile message to the audience, you'll want to watch this.
Definitely doesn't deserve as low a rating as it has right now.
Despite its obvious low budget, and some weak writing, I thought this was a pretty good movie. The plot is a little contrived and some character development could have been handled better but overall I found it worth my time to watch. If anything, I'm impressed the movie did so much with so little.
Lou Diamond Phillips is a solid performer, and I didn't find much to criticize even with the supporting and bit players. It wasn't as highly charged as the typical Hollywood effort (I'm thinking of TAKEN here…a movie with a vaguely similar theme and plot) but instead it had a more documentary feel that contributed to my willingness to overlook some plot holes.
"Transparency" is a modern day conspiracy theory film whose plot is a lot more interesting than its characters. Take just the first 15-20 minutes. Like many great films, "Transparency" begins with the mundane. A middle-aged security guard David (Lou Diamond Phillips) goes to work and then, after a long day, double checks the vehicles that went in and out of the building with his buddy Reg (Aaron Pearl). David notices an inconsistency. It could be nothing. But instead he makes a terrifying discovery. This plot twist leads to several others until David is in way over his head.
The best part about this film are the plot twists and the ending, which avoid the familiar clichés of Hollywood endings. The movie is called "Transparency" because that is what David, the hero, is searching for. But as in real life, discovering the true villains and the truth becomes almost impossible. Only in Hollywood films are all wrongs set to right and all answers provided. This film is not afraid to avoid giving anything away.
Yet at the same time, "Transparency" has significant weaknesses. David's back story, which comes across as contrived and absurd, could have been left out completely. David did not need to be a troubled guy with issues. He could have been the ordinary guy who unwittingly gets himself into a lot of trouble and the film would have still worked. The other problem are the action scenes. David is middle-aged, but apparently he can dodge firing machine guns and beat up Mafiosos. Finally, the performances throughout this film were, with the exception of Lou Diamond Phillips, well below par. The Russian villains were little more than caricatures. Estella Warren (known for her performance as the love interest in "Planet of the Apes") seems like a struggling actress who has shown up on set to collect her pay cheque. Her performance is largely contrived. The American villains are surprisingly boring, including the middle-aged lawyer Danielle (Deborah Kara Unger) who seems to be asleep throughout most of this picture. As a rule, villains have to be unstable, sadistic, and have sharp intellects to be terrifying. But unfortunately none of the villains come close to this standard. In fact, the best villains in this movie are the ones that cannot be seen, like the big corporate executives and maybe powerful figures inside the federal government.
In conclusion, reviewing this film presents a interesting challenge. On the one hand, the story line was entertaining throughout most of the film. Yet, I had the feeling too that I was seeing a low budget indie film with cheap sets and a gloomy atmosphere. But worst of all, the characters did not interest me or inspire any sympathy from me, not least because the actors delivered poor performances. So it was a very close call, but in the end a very marginal thumbs up. This film is worth seeing solely for its unusual plot because it simply has nothing else to offer. 5.7/10