Alex (Heston Horwin, Rock Steady Row, Dead Dicks) is a real estate agent, not a hero. But as Echoes of Violence begins he hears gunshots and a woman’s screams. Grabbing his own gun he goes to investigate. He saves Marakya (Michaella Russell, Agent) from her attacker, and in doing so gets himself into a situation he may not live to regret.
Marakya is in the country illegally. But it’s not as simple as someone jumping the border. She was victimized by Anthony (Taylor Flowers, Parallax) an immigration lawyer who also deals in sex trafficking. She doesn’t want the police involved, she wants revenge. And even if he doesn’t know it yet, Alex is a part of the plan.
Writer/director Nicholas Woods caught my attention with his debut film The Axiom which featured a twisty plot and a cool-looking monster. In Echoes of Violence he’s once again dealing with a complicated plot, but this time the monsters are human. Even if sometimes we’re not sure which ones they are.
Woods uses Tarantino’s tricks to keep our point of view clouded. Echoes of Violence is divided into chapters and told on a non linear timeline with shifting points of view. At the film’s start we’re introduced to Marakya and she gains our sympathy. At least until she gets Alex to drive her to LA and then is forced to tell him about Kellin (Chase Cargill, The Extrovert). He’s the former Marine turned assassin who’s after her and now, by extension, Alex.
Then we see things from Kellin’s perspective. But the film takes its time filling in the details. Which leaves the viewer hanging as to who to believe or trust. That’s a feeling that persists even after the plot seems to have made its decision.
The script is backed up with some excellent performances. Cargill is excellent as Kellin, who in some ways is the most interesting character in the film. Russell also does a great job in her first major film role. She has to take on a wide range of emotions portraying someone who is much more complicated than they first seem. Also, watch for Frank Oz of The Muppets and Little Shop of Horrors fame in a small but chilling role as Anthony’s father.
To their credit, and to the director’s as well, Oz and Flowers resist the urge to overplay their roles. It’s very easy, and common, to overly sensationalize a topic like sex trafficking. Rather than go that route and make them over the top villains, Echoes of Violence plays them as seemingly normal men who are quietly, and coldly, evil in the manner of Patrick Stewart’s Darcy in Green Room.
I have few complaints about Echoes of Violence, and my main one is somewhat subjective, Woods borrows a bit too much from Tarantino. I know some will probably see that as a plus, but I’m not a fan of his already second-hand stylings. I’d rather see more of the flashes of originality Woods displayed in The Axiom.
Thankfully he manages to avoid Tarantino’s habit of bloating the story out to nearly three hours or two films. Echoes of Violence runs an hour and forty-six well-used minutes. Despite its relative lack of violence the film never really drags, much of the additional time being used to show pivotal scenes from multiple character’s perspectives.
A solid thriller with a lot going for it, Echoes of Violence made its debut as part of this year’s Cinequest Film Festival. For viewers in the US, it will be available to screen on-demand as part of the festival until March 30th. For future screenings, you can check the director’s Facebook page.