On the Doll marks the directorial debut of noted music-video helmer Thomas Mignone, and although the first-time filmmaker generally does a nice job of infusing the proceedings with an intriguing visual style, there's little doubt that the increasingly uneven nature of Mignone's screenplay proves detrimental to the movie's overall success. Mignone's decision to employ a sprawling structure - replete with almost a dozen recurring characters - undoubtedly ranks high on the film's list of problems, as there inevitably reaches a point wherein certain figures become far more intriguing than others. It subsequently goes without saying that one's interest tends to ebb and flow depending on who's on screen, which hardly comes as a surprise given the film's emphasis on the seedy world of the sex industry (ie some of these people are just egregiously sleazy). The subplot involving a prostitute (Brittany Snow's Balery) who conspires to rob a john with a stranger (Josh Janowicz's Jaron) is an obvious highlight, with the melodramatic bent that's been hard-wired into some of the film's other stories certainly dulling their effectiveness. By the time the various threads converge in the overwrought and frenetic conclusion, On the Doll - which hardly packs the profound punch that Mignone is clearly aiming for - has definitively established itself as a misfire that nevertheless might just signal the emergence of a promising new talent.
Towards Darkness (September 15/08)
Towards Darkness' hopelessly uneven sensibilities ultimately prevent it from becoming the searing drama that filmmaker José Antonio Negret clearly wants it to be, as one's efforts to embrace the movie wholeheartedly are consistently undermined by the almost egregiously complex nature of the screenplay. The fractured narrative - which revolves around the efforts to retrieve a young man kidnapped while visiting his family in Colombia - initially leaves the viewer scratching their head in frustration, and it does go without saying that the barrage of flashbacks only compounds the feeling of confusion (ie it takes a while before one is comfortably able to discern what's occurring in the past versus what's occurring in the present). There reaches a point at which the pieces fall into place and the story subsequently becomes surprisingly enthralling, however, as Towards Darkness essentially plays out like a routine abduction thriller as filtered through an art-house sensibility. That being said, it's worth noting that the movie is often more compelling in its flashbacks than in its current-day sequences - with the blossoming relationship between the central character (Roberto Urbina's Jose) and his childhood sweetheart (America Ferrera's Luiza) consistently holding the viewer's interest. And while it's hard not to get a kick out of William Atherton's expectedly solid work as one of the men trying to get Jose back, Towards Darkness loses serious points for an ending that's both baffling and infuriating.
About the DVDs: Peace Arch Home Entertainment presents both titles with anamorphically-enhanced transfers; On the Doll comes armed with behind the scenes clips, deleted and extended scenes with director's commentary, an alternate ending, and more, while Towards Darkness includes the original short, a making-of featurette, and a color grading featurette.