The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD) - KILLING JOAN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD) - KILLING JOAN

killing joan review
A murdered mob enforcer comes back from the dead for revenge on her killers.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Todd Bartoo

Starring: Jamie Bernadette, Teo Celigo, Erik Aude, David Carey Foster

killing joan poster

Killing Joan, Todd Bartoo’s pan-genre revenge drama, opens in an impressive rush of action; we hurry along with a bunch of mooks, lowlifes who are being pursued by some unseen entity throughout the concrete intersections of a multi-storey car park, with the camera zooming, sweeping and frenetically cutting to increasingly oblique angles in order to keep up the chase in a frenzied montage of confusion, speed and kinetic energy, and, as the last crim is dragged in to the shadows, we the audience are likewise pulled abruptly into Killing Joan’s dark narrative. And the fun doesn’t stop there, oh no! We’re then introduced to the titular Joan herself, in a scene that as it happens, involves some actual tits, as Joan (Jamie Bernadette) is a mob enforcer, and she’s facing up to some shirker who happens to be having it off with a buxom lady. Doesn’t faze Joan: she shoots him in cold blood right in front of his ersatz beau.

killing joan

In these early scenes, Bartoo fully immerses us in an ambiance of pure sleaze; dank bars, leather jackets, besuited crims who espouse that their "bitch of a wife got me on a diet." Joan herself is amazing; in order to wind up her (male) ex, she gets off with a (female) random in a bar. "I’m with someone," the lucky lady says, gesturing to her gleeful fella across the club. "Bring him too," Joan assuages, and then all three go to Joan’s rather nice apartment for a ménage à trois, extensively filmed in a gleefully lecherous and utterly gratuitous sequence. There’s a line from another female cast member about how it is "not easy being a woman in a man’s world," but Joan convincingly DGAF. She even puts her boots up on a Don’s desk at one point! Look, I know, there’s nothing especially new here, but this sort of intense exploitation is aspired to by countless indie filmmakers, and rarely is it carried off with the detailed panache and painstaking energy that Killing Joan perfects in its early scenes: "Jesus Joan, you look like shit… when was the last time you slept?" Grindhouse catnip for the deviant cineaste - nice!

killing joan

Thus, it is highly regretful that, following Joan being murdered to death by some of her colleagues (live by the exploitation sword, etc) and her subsequent supernatural resurrection as an angel of vengeance, in a dessert-before-greens-dynamic the film loses a lot of its shady drive and settles into, yikes, a redemption narrative. Joan, aided by her ex, a poetry reading pansy who runs a homeless shelter and is the world’s most boring man, wrestles with her (perfectly understandable) desire for reprisals and her fella’s mealy-mouthed nonsense about turning the other cheek (hang on mate, let’s see how you like being beaten to death in a back street). Amid all this pontificating about morality, Killing Joan settles in to a repetitive groove of its heroine happening upon thugs brutalising someone or another in a back alley and then effing them up, with the screaming electric guitar score of the earlier, funnier scenes giving way to sombre piano, as if we’re meant to mourn Joan’s past-life as a bisexual renegade who drank whisky from the bottle and did as she flipping well pleased, only pausing to kick some ass and take a few names.

killing joan

There is fun to be had when Joan first becomes a ghost as, unlike most spectres straight back from the grave, she initially doesn’t have a clue how to manage her supernatural powers, clumsily materialising in the wrong place a few times in a neat gag. Also, throughout it all, riding the savage gear changes like a true pro, is Joan herself, Jamie Bernadette, who, with her severe beauty and general aura of threat hanging about her like cheap perfume is always a joy to watch. But despite the integrity of Bernadette’s performance, narrative-wise her devolution from anti-heroine to heroine disappoints, and we long for the exploitation pleasures of earlier, the latter half of the film’s preachy denial of which inadvertently makes such illicit excitements all the more alluring.

Killing Joan is on VOD April 3rd.