The Movie Waffler First Look Review - <i>PEARL</i> | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - PEARL

A young woman seeks bloody revenge for a home invasion.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Guy Patton

Starring: Dana Patton, Jennifer Barnes, Marcus Bishop-Wright, Justin Brown

"Pearl captures the grubby, grim grindhouse thrills of such b-movie classics as Ms. 45 or They Call Her One Eye with sneering panache."

Neon synth lines throb over lingering shots of greasy alleyways and dubious bar rooms, a morally compromised priest launders ammunition for a desperate vigilante, whilst a rumpled detective and a peppy CSI haplessly track her trail of bloody destruction throughout the city’s dank underworld. We’re mired within the gaudy pleasures of exploitation in revenge drama Pearl, as one woman army (the titular Pearl, played by Dana Patton), wreaks havoc on the big time drug dealers linked to the horrific home invasion which has scarred her past and left her bent on vengeance.
Made on a microbudget, Pearl is exploitation indie at its rawest; while the performances are a little shaky at times, and one or two fight scenes maybe don’t quite connect, this is a film that is certainly red in tooth and claw, and wonderfully, authentically faithful to the '70s revenge flicks it takes as inspiration. This film is harder than Charles Bronson’s stare, and as grimy as Abel Ferrara’s most lurid fantasies. Dana Patton’s compelling presence as Pearl (she also wrote and produced the film, while her husband Guy directed) is chillingly convincing - all severe sinews and tight lipped mercilessness. Her Pearl is the film’s pulsing heart, and she allows just enough humanity beneath the truculence to allow the audience a connection. The action scenes are blocked with the same ruthless efficiency with which Pearl plots her raids: fast, brutal, and taking no prisoners. Except for one; tweeker chemist Erik (Scott Morales), all nervy energy and wisecracks, who Pearl takes hostage in order to extract information. The buddy film dynamic that the film engages in regarding these two is darkly amusing, not least of all the torture sequence involving a clothes iron - ouch!  Other grindhouse highlights involve world weary detective Wyatt (George Morafetis), whose crumpled performance provides a human counterpoint to Pearl’s driven retaliation. In true b-movie tradition, Pearl and Wyatt are both outsiders, fighting for the same cause from different sides of a ‘law’ that has done them both nothing but wrong.
From Death Wish to John Wick, the reason for the continued success of revenge movies is because they allow us a moral surety: we know precisely who is in the right, exactly who the bad guys are, and can rest assured that by the credits both are going to get their just desserts. In real life, things are rarely as uncomplicated, and so the ethical escapism offered by films such as Pearl is their principal pleasure. From this angle, while the baddies in Pearl are obviously rotters (chief drug lord Tre, Justin Brown, thinks nothing of snapping his significant other’s neck when she intimates her pregnancy - ‘I ain’t got no life to offer a kid’), I would have liked to have seen them been even more vicious, in order to have further reason to root against them or even fear them as a threat: Pearl just seems too unassailable and tough for these slick willies to ever be much of a worry. Furthermore, one of the film’s running themes is that the male crims continually underestimate Pearl, failing to see beyond her supposedly fairer gender (the poster’s tagline reads ‘Looks Can Be Deceiving’). Perhaps I just know some tough women, but I wasn’t sure how far this convinces, especially in an age of Kill Bill or even within the sort of grindhouse flick Pearl simulates (don’t mess aroun’ with Foxy Brown!), and particularly since Patton looks hard as. Nonetheless, in her sweat stained vest and tightly knotted physique, Pearl comes with a readily emblematic look: another female exploitation icon for the pantheon.
Pearl captures the grubby, grim grindhouse thrills of such b-movie classics as Ms. 45 or They Call Her One Eye with sneering panache. The soundtrack is gorgeous, the look and feel of the film pure exploitation; and Patton’s Pearl has a dignity and bloodied nobility that keeps the potential excesses of this genre in check. Pearl: find her before she finds you.