Movies Reviews

Movie Review: Quid Pro Quo

By Ron Wilkinson Jun 9, 2008, 18:55 GMT

Movie Review: Quid Pro Quo

An obscure and terrifying mental disorder leads a reporter to the strangest and then the most terrifying story of his life.  A neat film noir in a very modern setting amongst people who are not all there. ...more

An obscure and terrifying mental disorder leads a reporter to the strangest and then the most terrifying story of his life.  A neat film noir in a very modern setting amongst people who are not all there

Newcomer writer/director Carlos Brooks has produced one of the best first-time efforts in recent history with this much understated mystery thriller about people who want to be less than whole.  Strong performances by lead Nick Stahl and supporting actress Vera Farmiga make this a very neat package of low budget indie thriller.

Nick Stahl comes to this film off his Screen Actors’ Guild nominated part in the sizzling “In the Bedroom” (2001) with Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson.  In 2003 he was John Connor in “Terminator 3” opposite Arnie, his governorship, hisself.  In this film he is inquisitive but sincere Isaac Knot, a Public Radio reporter in New York City who has been confined to a wheelchair since a childhood auto accident.  

Multi-film-festival award winner Vera Farmiga (“Down to the Bone”—2004) plays Fiona, a mysterious spokesperson for a dark group of social misfits.  The group shares a secret that they cannot bear to let out.  It is a secret that has cost most of them their friends and any semblance of a connected social life.

Isaac is contacted by the mysterious “Ancient Chinese Girl” about a story he can’t refuse: a man entered a hospital and attempted to bribe an intern to amputate his leg.  Following up on the story, Isaac meets Fiona and then is allowed to meet the “self help” group of people who have the desire to be less than whole.

The story is shot in the darkest of noir settings, cellars and flat lit offices.  These scenes are interspersed with fields of fluorescently colored tulips as Isaac flashes back to the day he became locked to his wheel-chair for life.  As Isaac refuses to give up on the story he finds he is being led more and more to Fiona and less and less to the dark and cloistered group that started the story.

As Fiona and Isaac find themselves drawn together by a strange attraction, they must confront both of their pasts as the woman makes her final, irreversible demands on Isaac.  In so-doing, Isaac comes to question what it really means to be whole.

This film comes closer to sci-fi without being sci-fi than any other film out there.  There are geek parody films that have faded into disappearance and this film comes close to those; but even stranger is the fact that this one is based on reality.

Brooks based the story on Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), also known as Amputee Identity Disorder, the overwhelming desire to amputate one or more healthy limbs or other parts of the body.  It can be so severe that its sufferers amputate their own limbs. Although it most commonly refers to people who wish to amputate limbs, the term BIID also applies to those who wish to alter their bodily integrity in general.  Enter the mysterious drug Ginger Jake.

It is hard to tell from the film whether BIID was a true syndrome, or whether the writer/director made it up.  That’s good, because it means that the film walks the thin line between fact and fiction---or between sci-fi and the simple, bizarre truth.

The truth is always better than fiction, and Carols Brooks has come up with a corker here.  The cinematography is great; the camera is down at wheelchair level and even at floor level as the characters fall and writhe.  This technique is used in other wheelchair films such as the wonderful documentary “Murderball” (2007), but it is used to even better effect in creating the eerie, off-balance feeling of this film.

Even the toxin Ginger Jake really exists, but you will have to watch the film to see why and how.  A very creative and well executed mystery thriller that has the audience wondering from beginning to end.  Newcomer writer/director Brooks could be one to watch.

Release: June 13, 2008
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 82 minutes
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color

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