Totem (2018)

June 17th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Jakub Charon; Cast: Karol Bernacki, Malgorzata Krukowska, Joanna Majstrak, Milan Skrobic, Michal Sobota, Jolanta Juszkiewicz; Poland 2017, 118′.

Director/writer Jakub Charon has chosen the milieu of small town gangsters in his native Poland for his debut feature, an uneven and often ultra-brutal thriller that suffers from its incoherent script and a self-indulgent length.

Brothers Dziki (Bernacki) and Igor (Sobolweski) have an uneasy relationship: the much younger Dziki served a two years sentence for his brother, and on his return, he expects some reward, particularly, for looking after their mentally unbalanced mother (Juszkiewicz) and his brother’s baby. To complicate matters, Dziki is secretly in love with Ewa (Majstrak), who helps him looking after mother and baby. But Dziki is also in charge of his brother’s prostitutes and one in particular is Dagmara (Kruskowska), who he fancies. After Dagmara is raped by clients, she opens up about a heist Igor has planned involving a huge stash of narcotics from the powerful Serbian Mafia. Dziki’s friend Olaf (Skrobic) tries to help, but after a seemingly endless bloodbath, he and Igor meet a tragic end. Dziki sets the parental home ablaze before a last, unnecessary, act of violence closes this testosterone driven debut.

The continuous onslaught of gratuitous rampant violence makes TOTEM a tough watch to sit through – it’s clear what Charon had in mind, but he fails miserably as it careens out of control. The acting is convincing, and DoP Piotr Pawlus does a great job behind the camera – but in the end his images are as overblown as the whole project, a mixture of parody and overkill, which has about as many redeeming features as the male protagonists.AS



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