For the Sake of Vicious

For the Sake of Vicious is a mean, ugly little picture. Even at eighty minutes, this exercise in gratuitous violence made my skin crawl so badly that I couldn't wait for it to be over. That it's so technically well-made just makes it all the more frustrating. Filmmakers Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen clearly have a flair for staging, so why wouldn't they want to show it off in a movie that actually has a fully-developed story?

Romina (Lora Burke) is a nurse. She returns home on Halloween night to discover Chris (Nick Smyth) has broken into her house. They know each other; she treated his daughter following a rape. Chris has badly beaten Romina's landlord, Alan (Colin Paradine), and wants her to help keep him alive. You see, Chris believes Alan was the rapist, but a jury disagreed, allowing him to go free. Alan insists on his innocence, claiming that Chris is too blinded by rage to see the truth. Romina therefore finds herself in a sticky situation, not knowing whom to believe.

Using child rape as a plot point is tasteless unless you plan to address the subject with some semblance of seriousness. For the Sake of Vicious uses it only as a device to kick off a long, unpleasant series of events. Alan ends up calling Gerald (James Fler), a lowlife criminal with a cabal of goons who “take care of things.” They show up at Romina's house, inexplicably wearing masks. (Well, inexplicable except that mask-wearing is a seeming requirement in the home invasion subgenre.) That's when things get really crazy.

The second half of the film abandons any pretense of storytelling. Instead, it's a string of nauseatingly bloody attacks. The characters punch, kick, shoot, stab, bludgeon, and strangle each other. One person gets the claw of a hammer plunged through their eye. Another gets shards of broken glass forcefully shoved into his face. All of this and more is shown in stomach-churning detail.

Hardcore violence onscreen is not automatically a bad thing, so long as it's placed within a context. Sam Peckinpah's 1971 classic Straw Dogs, with which this film has some elements in common, is a fine example of how to do it right. Emphasis needs to remain on character and plot, with the violence accentuating those things. For the Sake of Vicious puts emphasis on the bloodletting, pushing character and plot into the background. Instead of walking away emotionally stunned – as I did with Straw Dogs, Deliverance, and Don't Breathe – I felt numbed by it all.

The repetitive, pointless mayhem makes For the Sake of Vicious the most aptly-titled film of 2021.

out of four

For the Sake of Vicious is unrated, but contains adult language and non-stop graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.