To Kill a Man

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
To Kill a Man
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Jorge (Daniel Candia) is a happy, middle-class family man until street thugs begin to infiltrate his tranquil neighborhood. When he encounters one particularly vicious thug, his son tries to protect his father and get back his stolen insulin kit. This unleashes a reign of terror on Jorge and his family and police officials do nothing to help them. The now-miserable Jorge is pushed too far and he decides to take matters into his own hands “To Kill a Man.”

Chilean writer-director Alejandro Fernandez Almendras tells a story about a man, Jorge, and his family, who believed, until now, that they live in a safe and secure neighborhood. That changes when the thug, Kakule (Daniel Antivilo), after mugging Jorge, shoots his son, Jorgito (Ariel Mateluna), who had just celebrated his 18th birthday. For his heinous deed, Kakule gets a mere two years in prison.

When Jorge and his family begin getting threatening phone calls, obviously from Kakule, they once again go to the police and demand a restraining order. But, a loose cannon like Kakule will not be deterred by a mere piece of paper. He chooses Jorge’s daughter, Nicole (Jennifer Salas), as the next target in his terror plans. This proves a bridge too far for Jorge and he takes matters into his own hands to protect his family.

The story of a father’s revenge in order to protect his family has been around for many years and in many guises so “To Kill a Man” covers familiar ground. You root for, and sympathize with, Jorge and his primal need for survival and protection against a more powerful, brutal enemy. You also loathe Kakule, who shoots himself after gunning down Jorgito to make the attack look like “self-defense. “Just desserts” is one phrase that comes to mind about Jorge’s motives in vengeance against the monster.

Director Almendras does an economical job in telling his original story in under 90 minutes without making the film feel rushed. He takes a straightforward approach to his tale of a man pushed too far but, still, way over his head in his revenge. You should, and do, feel his anger and frustration in just wanting the constant terror to end. (“To Kill a Man” is Chile’s entry for Best Foreign Language film for the Oscars.) I give it a B-.

The DVD release of “To Kill a Man” is sparse with its few extras. There is an interview with the director that goes on too long, if the increased fidgeting of the interviewer is any indication. There is also a trove of deleted scenes which consists, mostly, of long shots of Jorge waling through the forest or on the beach. I can understand why they were deleted. Also included are theatrical trailers of the film

But, there is one unexpected oddball “treat” within the extras: a bonus short film called “Our Blood,” about a half brother and sister who meet each other on a remote Bison ranch. It may not seem like much but I could not stop watching this strange story of incest.

I give the bonus package, particularly because of the quirky “Our Blood,” a B-.

In an interview with the director on the disc's extras, Almendras explains that his film was based on a true story that resonated when he heard the answer the real dad, still in prison, gave when an interviewer asked him if he'd do it again.  'No,' he replied, 'you don't know what it is to kill a man.'  The resulting film is like a three act play.  In the first we see what drives this father and husband to commit his crime.  In the second, we see that the crime has split up the family but hasn't stopped the perpetrator's onslaught and the near rape of  the family's daughter proves the final blow.  Dad takes an unusual route and we begin to fear for his methods.  Indeed, act three illustrates how the crime solves
nothing, weighing heavily on both the man's physicality and his soul.  Almendras juxtaposes the family's harassment in an urban area with the father's 'head space,' on the job in a remote area surrounded by nature.  It's a tense and thought provoking work.  The DVD's extras, though, aren't of much interest outside of that interview.  Deleted scenes made me glad they were.  The included short film, "Our Blood" by Max Chan is described as 'A brother and sister meet for the first time on an isolated bison farm. What begins as an attempt to reunite a family ends in ecstatic violence when the two are seduced into transgressing primordial law.'  If that sounds like something you probably don't want to see, you'd be right, although it's kind of compelling in the same way watching a car crash might be.  The film gets a B, the DVD extras a C+.
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