68 Kill review Matthew Gray Gubler AnnaLynne McCordYear: 2017
Director(s): Trent Haaga
Writer(s): Trent Haaga
Region of Origin: US

Rating: Unrated
Digital, Color, 93 mins

Synopsis: A punk-rock after hours story about femininity, masculinity and the theft of $68,000. (Source)

You’re a depraved, sadistic little pup ain’t ya? Don’t worry, director Trent Haaga knows it, and he’s created 68 Kill just for you. Very few films have the sheer audacity of Haaga’s directorial debut – it’s a psycho blend of heist, vengeance and sex comedy conventions that flips gender roles while daring its audience into submission. Sitting comfortably outside of classification, the all-in film is headlined by a triptych of women who’d rather eat their prey alive than entertain insecure masculinity. In turn, stars AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe and Sheila Vand are knockouts who have no problem leaving anyone in the dust, toying with on-screen punching bag Matthew Gray Gubler to his dismay, but our delight. 68 Kill is lined with a perversity that most films couldn’t even dream of, and an incendiary dissection of femininity, masculinity and the rapidly disintegrating line between the two.

Everything centers around the unassuming Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler). As far as he’s concerned, he’s got all he needs in Liza (AnnaLynne McCord), his commandeering girlfriend. Chip adores Liza, but their mundane existence (he cleans septic tanks, she’s got a sugar daddy) leaves the latter wanting more. Chip’s loyalty is tested when Liza decides that they should rob her sugar daddy Ken (David Maldonado), who’s got $68k saved up for a brand new ride. Chip naturally can’t say no, and this is where things go off the rails. As you can guess, the heist goes completely wrong, initiating a grisly killing spree that quickly snowballs into something I can’t spoil here. Chip and Liza eventually end up with a hostage named Violet (Alisha Boe), who is running from her own demons. The pair also cross paths with a sadistic punk-goth named Monica (Sheila Vand), who can’t pass any opportunity to see red. Will Chip survive the night, and if he does, how will he be shaped by the cavalcade of lunacy that comes his way?

As you can tell, anything goes in this film, and I mean anything. From minute-to-minute, it’s impossible to tell what will happen next, with Haaga blending gross-out humor and gore with grotesque sincerity. But while the film’s ability to provoke is worn like a badge of honor, it’s the women take the film above and beyond, smashing social preconceptions to pieces with unabashed glee. Breaking the film into three loose chapters, Haaga gives each woman a chance to shine, leaving their diverse marks on the story and Chip in ways that subvert archetypes and social norms. These anti-heroines are grossly exaggerated versions of a number of stereotypes, and the film’s greatest asset is getting to see them adapt to the men and uncontrollable circumstances around them. In that sense, the film belongs to the hardened women who never ever hesitate to find the upper hand. Subtext aside though, Haaga’s film is a cracked-out joyride through the warped mind of a madman, and he’s allowed us to ride shotgun into the most glorious head-on collision.

68 Kill review Matthew Gray Gubler AnnaLynne McCordWith a trio of ferocious women at the fore, the film’s ensemble is a raucous look at the way we view women vs who they really could be. Starting things off, AnnaLynne McCord’s Liza is a force of nature. As a character, Liza knows exactly what she wants, running circles around everyone as McCord embodies her with deadpan delivery and psychotic aplomb. Alisha Boe’s Violent is the film’s answer to a damsel in distress. Starting out as a hostage but quickly turning things around, Boe is the most empathetic of the group, reaching out to Chip and never allowing herself to be a victim. The film closes things out with Sheila Vand’s Monica. Her look that can only be described as punk Lydia Deetz, and Vand is the most savage of the bunch – she’s vicious from the moment we meet her and brutally nasty till the end. Together, these women couldn’t be more unique from one another, giving Chip a run for his money. Speaking of, Matthew Gray Gubler’s Chip is a great foil for each woman. It’s his sincerity that grounds the film despite its madcap absurdity, always giving us a context as the film twists our preconceived notions on gender and even strength.

68 Kill is a dense, mile-a-minute vortex of chaos that never lets up. As a testament to Haaga’s warped sense of insanity, we’re totally exhausted by the end, but still hankering for more. Truly one of a kind, this is arguably the sickest film of the year, and a smart exercise that takes male fantasy and gaze, dials it up to 200%, only to turn these ideas upside down and let them blow up in our face. This thing will definitely weed out the faint of heart, but those who stick through it will be glad that they did. Expect the unexpected.