Directed by David Petrucci
Bulldog Film Distribution Region 2
Hope Lost is one of eleven films given away as freebies at the 2016 Frightfest weekend. It wasn’t a film I was particularly interested in seeing, or had even heard of to tell the truth but I figured these free films were either hidden, under marketed gems or just bad movies nobody wanted to see. Well, this one is certainly no hidden gem but it would be wrong to call it a truly bad movie, I think. To be fair though, I’m not sure I’d want to sit through it again and I can’t really understand the appeal of it myself.
As I said, I’d not heard of the film so I looked it up on YouTube and watched the trailer... which in some ways made me want to watch it even less. From the promo it looked like a really terrible 1980s style grubby American sex thriller which should never have been made... which is not quite accurate to the content and style of the movie. It did nothing to endear me to the idea of watching the film but it did have a cast of known actors in it... Mischa Barton, Danny Trejo, Michael Madsen and Danny Baldwin are perhaps the best known here... and as my regular readers may have figured out by now, I can’t resist watching free stuff.
So, I sat down to watch it and instead found myself watching a really beautifully shot simulacrum of... a grubby American 1980s sexploitation flick... minus any real sex or nudity to speak of and with a very edgy look at the world of human sex trafficking which teases extreme violence and degradation without actually delivering any.
Francesca Agostini plays Sofia, a young girl who is tricked by an Italian film producer into a life of prostitution midst threats of mutilation, death and blackmail until she’s paid back his debt to Michael Madsen’s pimp/druglord/snuff film producer Manol. The film follows her somewhat repetitive and dull exploits as she tries to work off the ‘debt’ or secure freedom for her and her friend Alina, played by Mischa Barton. It’s a grim trajectory and the film is, frankly, a bit flat and boring apart from in the moments where it teases into getting really nasty or explores the back story of Sofia’s lesbian client Eva, played by Alessia Navarro, who slowly falls in love with Sofia while trying to work through her own acute mental problems brought on by her former life of being a torturer/interrogator in the army.
The film plays out in this kind of pattern... Sofia goes with a client. Sofia gets tricked by a fake client to see she is doing her job right and gets herself in trouble. Repeat this pattern a few times and you eventually get to a set piece where the two girls are taking a starring role in a snuff movie while ex-soldier lesbian Eva tries to track them down and rescue them... with not all that expected consequences, as it turns out.
Now, bearing in mind this is a UK release and the British Board of Film Classification (Censors) hate sexualised violence, the clue as to whether this film goes far enough to tell its story is in the rating. It’s got an 18 rating (personally I think a 15 would have been plenty because, you really don’t see much of anything going on) and it even says there is 'sexual violence' as a warning. However, sexual violence is almost always sliced out of any feature films or TV here and the fact that, according to the BBFC website, the film was passed with 'no cuts made', says everything about the extremes that this film doesn’t go to. Not that I would really have wanted to see it come to that especially but one of the main problems in this film, which is filled with good actors and a fairly mediocre script, is that it teases stuff it absolutely refuses to show. Everything seems tastefully done and it feels like it’s been self censored to the point where the writers should maybe think about trying to do something else other than what they seem to be trying to achieve here... which is to paint an effectively grim portrayal of the illegal sex trafficking trade. However, ‘effectively’ is not a word I’d use in the case of this film.
As I said, though, the actors are all fine and there’s some truly great cinematography in the film. Starting off during the credits sequence we see a slice of Sofia’s day at a busy clothing factory which is then juxtaposed with shots of the rural outdoors as she walks home. As we see her go to pick up her younger brother from school, a nice shot of vertical railing bars is blurred out so we can concentrate on her progress. It’s all very nice and it feels somewhat Italian in the devotion to giving the audience nicely composed shots throughout the film. It just seems somewhat too good for a film about this particular subject matter... at least with the script it has here.
And I’m sorry this is such a short review but there’s really not much more I can think to say about this one. It’s a bit like looking at a band wagon ‘torture porn’ genre movie, you know the kind which were so popular at the cinema about ten or so years ago? Not really my cup of tea and I’m not exactly an expert in this genre but shouldn’t a torture porn movie at least have some torture and porn in it? There are attempts here but everything is glossed over so lightly it’s like token scenes to just join the dots of a less than interesting screenplay, in all honesty. So, yes, Hope Lost is not for me and I certainly won’t be recommending it to anyone I know. However, I am grateful to have watched this one because, as the saying goes, you can’t appreciate the really good films if you haven’t seen some not so good ones too.