Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Ink

Ink. Written & Directed by Jamin Winans.

Preconceptions: Here comes another one of my shot in the dark reviews. Yes, in order to pluck the gems out of the squalor I've picked another movie I hadn't heard of that looked interesting, basically at random. This has worked out well for me in the past, right? Not a whole lot of preconceptions for this movie, except that I knew it was a bit popular online and that I thought it was animated (it really wasn't, not really sure where that one came from).

General Review: Well, cupcakes, you might not know what the basic plot of this one is, because it is independent and mostly released online. This is normally the point where I give you a helpful plot summary, but since in this case that will entirely spoil the movie, I'm not gonna. You've been reading for some months now and reading a blog for that long surely means you've given me your unstinting, blind trust, right? Of course you have! It's practically contractual.

Now that I'm assured of your faith in my taste, I want to give this flick a big thumbs up. I've seen a good chunk of smart movies in my time, but I haven't seen a ton of smart movies that acknowledge that the audience isn't mostly brain dead. Ink expects you to be able to understand basic narrative flow, be able to fill in any niggling gaps with your own well thought-out suppositions and generally keep up with a fast pace of information. While I've certainly seen any number of entertaining movies, it's a rare one that sparks my brain into action and expects me to give a little effort back. This movie walked the tiny line between being irritatingly artsy and confusing and spoon-feeding obvious information to the audience (I know it sounds like a great big highway of a line, but me oh my, it isn't). The story takes a number of the rather tarnished standard plot points and gives them the polishing they've needed for ages.

Quinn Hunchar is one of the better child actors I've ever seen at work. She had a good script to work with, but it was her charm and skill that made me give a damn about what happened to her. Given that there are tumblers of water that have more maternal instinct than me, it was an impressive feat. She managed to stay childlike, like an actual child, not the syrupy precocious automaton I've come to expect from movies. The close relationship between her and her father was set up in one brief, well constructed scene. I've seen entire movies that didn't set up relationships this well. While we're continuing to talk about difficult things this movie managed to do, lets round it out with a third: Jennifer Batter played a believable chick warrior character. She wasn't any of the stereotypes that I've grown so DVD-turning-off-ily sick of. She wasn't distant and heartless with a fiery libido just waiting for a man to match her, she wasn't the femme fatale and she wasn't just Conan in drag. Again, equal parts writing and acting (and good costuming, which was consistently good throughout), but Batter made me believe that she was a person as well as an ass kicker.

Ink uses a lot of hand held camera work and heavy colour washes. These are two things that usually make me pause and put my head between my knees. It wasn't the violence, but the washed out shakiness of Saving Private Ryan that made me feel sick. While I certainly can't promise that Ink will be the exception to vertigo for you, it was for me. Yes, the camera work is shaky and a bit undecided about what it wants to be looking at from second to second, but this is one of the rare cases I've seen in which that works. And if I ever say that about hand held camera again, may the back of my head be firmly smacked. The camera work and good choreography also managed to give the fight scenes the feeling of jumbled claustrophobia that so many movies seem to be trying for and failing.

Let me conclude my gushing with a discussion of the special effects. My irrational love for 70s horror has given me a real appreciation for doing a lot with the minor effects budget you have. A well-constructed trick on iMovie can easily be more appealing and realistic than something done for millions of dollars by a high end effects house. A simple set of hand held drums opens portals with a small flash of light and colour washes tell us what world we're in (tired of me hinting at story elements yet?). The effects in this movie are simply done but ultimately effective (I always had a pretty good idea of what the hell was supposed to be going on) and looked really cool as well.

One of the few complaints I have about Ink is that the link between the second and third act drag. There is a twenty minute period before we get to the climax where my interest started to wander. Don't worry, it's over quickly and we're right back into great movie.

Despite being an indy film, if I've piqued your interest, you don't have to wait for it to come to whatever theater plays weird movies nearby. You can get Ink in a number of ways on the Double Edge Films website, including renting it on YouTube for two bucks (hey, that's what rentals used to cost when I was a girl, I'm not getting old, who says that I am?). You will find those two bucks to be well spent. In case you hadn't noticed, this movie has my glowing-est endorsement. It's clever, funny and beautiful. Not to mention it proved me wrong about hand held camera being a blight upon film making, though the film industry should not take this as a challenge to make me care about bullet time again.


  1. I'm so glad you reviewed this movie! It's in my queu. I picked for the same reason you did. Now I know I can look forward to it.

  2. I love playing Russian Roulette with Netflix.

  3. It's well worth the look. If you follow the link you can cheaply buy a YouTube rental or get a copy of the disk. It's also on Netflix streaming (I love Netflix so much).