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November 2009 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Horsemen Of The Apocalypse
cast: Dennis Quaid, Ziyi Zhang, Lou Taylor Pucci, Patrick Fugit, and Eric Balfour

director: Jonas Akerlund

87 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Icon DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
When a platter of torn-out teeth is discovered at a snowy crime scene, it's only natural that recently widowed detective Aidan Breslin (Dennis Quaid) should be called in. With his background in forensic odontology, he should be able to identify the teeth's unfortunate previous owner. But someone also painted 'come and see' (a quote from Revelations, apparently) on the trees at each point of the compass and the same signs are present at a series of grisly ritual murders using pervy 'suspension frames' and hooks. As the body count rises, Breslin and his partner Stingray (Clifton Collins Jr) realise there's a serial killer on the loose. Or rather killers, plural. And that they're modelling themselves on the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

One of the murderers (Ziyi Zhang) turns herself in. She's eager to talk to Breslin, but her information proves to be as misleading as it is occasionally helpful. What's more, trying to track down the killers still at large before they strike again means widower Breslin is spending even less quality time with his sons. And then the investigation takes a turn that brings events uncomfortably close to home...

I enjoyed the often picturesque wintry setting, but I'm clearly not Horsemen's target audience. It's one of a crop of recent films that seem to revel in gratuitous torture and gore. David Callaham's script (I wonder what he has against group therapy?) is silly and full of plot holes you can drive a bus through, the religious aspects of the killings mere window dressing. Hollywood has always had a reputation for producing sometimes tiresome 'therapy fiction', in which the protagonist learns an emotional lesson by the film's end. But here, the therapy elements sit uneasily beside the Grand Guignol. What's more, they feel contrived and shoehorned in at the expense of potentially more interesting storylines (featuring Breslin's underdeveloped partner Stingray, perhaps). Trying to justify the killers' extreme actions by giving them supposedly plausible motives doesn't engage viewer sympathy but rather trivialises the sufferings of those in such circumstances in real life. As for the preposterous 'twist' ending, most will probably see it coming. I did and spent a large part of the film wondering if Jonas Akerlund was really intending to go through with it or if it was just a masterly piece of misdirection. Sadly, he was and it wasn't.

Ziyi Zhang and Dennis Quaid in Horsemen

There are some big names in Horsemen, so does the acting save the feeble script? Erm, no... Dennis Quaid (Frequency, The Day After Tomorrow) wanders around the entire time in a frowning daze, lacking the charisma he usually bring to his films and looking as rumpled as Columbo's raincoat. And a miscast Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs Of A Geisha, House Of Flying Daggers) is frankly too old for her role and also misjudges the tone, switching from demure schoolgirl to cartoonish exotic killer in an unconvincing eye blink. Clifton Collins Jr (Traffic, Babel, Capote) has little to do as Breslin's partner. And Lou Taylor Pucci gives a rather flat performance as Breslin's troubled oldest son Alex.

DVD extras (not seen): an audio commentary with director Akerlund and director of photography Eric Broms, and some deleted scenes.

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