Top positive review
Surprisingly rather good
on 3 March 2016
Stoic tells the story of four inmates at a prison, and we never leave their shared cell in the action, which definitely lends a claustrophobic feel throughout. Boll described it in our interview as almost being like a play, and that's not a bad way to think of it. The events that take place are intercut with interview (or interrogation?) footage from three of the prisoners there. Why only three, you ask? Well, the movie opens with Mitch hanging himself, and from there we track back to the events that led to that tragic turn. And – honestly – it's pretty damn nasty stuff to watch.
We start with a simple poker game that leads to a fairly outlandish bet that the loser would eat a full tube of toothpaste. Poor old Mitch is the man to lose, but doesn't fancy it and so refuses to take on the forfeit. But cellmates Harry, Jack and Peter are not going to stand for that at all, and force Mitch to down the tube in its entirety. The act causes him to throw up, with his cellmates gathering like jackals to make him clean it up – but not with a mop, oh no, with his tongue instead.
Sound bad? Well, it's not ideal by any stretch. But unfortunately things are about to get a whole lot worse for Mitch when he tries to press the emergency button to call the guard. It's the ultimate act of betrayal in the eyes of his fellows, and is punished immediately with physical violence and in turn some deeply unsettling sexual violence. Things are presented in horrible detail, so there's no doubt as to what's going on, and the psychological element and animalistic mentality is pretty tough to watch.
It's then that the idea occurs to the group – if they can persuade poor, broken Mitch to kill himself then there's a chance they can get off lightly from their sentences or get switched to the psych ward And after his awful ordeal, Mitch is anything but averse to the idea, which leads us back to the opening of the movie.
So what do we make of Stoic all told, other than not quite being able to pin down why it was given that title? There was an awful lot to like here – the setting was really effective, the story was simple but worked well and said something about human nature and what can happen to people in extreme situations. The acting was good – particularly the always excellent Edward Furlong as Jack, who was consistently sinister and conniving. The cutaways to the interview sections worked really well, and got deeper into the emotions and thoughts behind some of the reprehensible actions that take place. These also give the actors a chance to really earn their money, which on the whole they did capably.
This movie was certainly uncompromising, pulling no punches at all, and having plenty of impact with the violence it delivers. There's also a lot to like in terms of setting, direction and acting – the fact it's inspired by true events explains why everything that happens feels so believable. Brutal but compelling, this is worth taking on for those of a strong