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Donkey Punch Delivers

May 16, 2009

Turn up the heat!

Going in without any expectations other than the dreaded anticipation of the titular act, I found myself wondering early on if I was wasting my limited movie time on a predictable retread. Think of Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave and Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things  without the depth of Boyle or the dark humor of Berg, and what we get is a tightly paced, serious thriller populated with cute girls, good looking guys, and enough mayhem to justify the 90 minutes spent in suspensful delight.

“Donkey Punch” introduces us to three cute girls planning a quick getaway in order to help their heartbroken friend get over her recently ended relationship. Soon they are partying it up at a club where they meet 3 good looking guys who quickly manipulate the girls into heading back to their yacht for some drinks.

Writer/director Oliver Blackburn sprinkles the opening with enough questions to keep us interested – is the yacht really theirs, can we trust them, which one gets the punch, who does the punching – and keeps the pace moving rapidly enough to keep us from losng interest. There are moments of hesitation on the part of recently dumped Tammi who would rather spend the time with her two friends, but her fears are quickly overcome by the promise of “just one drink.”

(spoiler alert!) Soon the yacht is in the middle of the sea; Bluey, the boldest of the bunch, quickly fills everyone with ecstacy and crack, and the orgy begins. Josh, played at first innocently by Julian Morris, lends a creepy overtone to the orgy by watching silently from the couch. Shot with surprising efficiency, the orgy scene is effective at raising the intensity level, and when the nervous, youngest of the bunch Josh gets behind Lisa, we know that the titular act is about to occur.

Suddenly it does; and I have to say, Blackburn and his cast pull this off perfectly. The mix of sex, drugs, and seemingly innocent fun seemed like just that, making the actual result of the events somewhat saddening. Blackburn evokes a sense of sympathy at first, and I truly cared about these characters. Of course, this changes quickly as the fear and reality set in. The ensuing events are somewhat believable, and as each character spirals toward thier inevitable fate, the acting and dialogue never waver. I didn’t want any of these guys to die, and if Blackburn shows us anything, it is that he can create likeable characters even when they are doing the unspeakable. 

Donkey Punch delivers all the way to its satisfying conclusion, introduces us to a group of actors worth following, and presents a director who just might force us to pay attention.

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