Let me begin by praising your originality of vision. It is not often that the premise and opening moments of a movie alone can allow me a small amount of pleasure in and of themselves. And even though your central conceit – a man with a semi-disfiguring heart-shaped birthmark on his face makes a deal with a devil to have it removed – may be a bit overwrought with symbolism it still is something of a novelty. My own unfounded and so far unrewarded affection for your principle actor, Jim Sturgessr, aside, though, the truth is that in the end I might be forced to mark you down as a failure.
But maybe I shouldn’t be too hasty with that label. After all, I was compelled by you all the way through, even though I was able to predict some of your plot points and last-minute twists. After all, having seen as many movies as I have, it would be difficult for a movie to really surprise me now. The question then becomes whether or not these twists were earned, and carried of in a way that was both rewarding and organic.
Luckily, I can say without a doubt that most of them were. In fact, they were revelations so deeply rooted in your story that I find myself doubting whether or not they were supposed to truly be surprises to the audience at all. After all, my knowledge of them in contrast to your protagonist’s seeming ignorance helped to create a level of empathetic tension that would have otherwise eluded me. In this way, you succeeded at making an emotional connection to me, and that is a rare thing that I frankly was not expecting from you.
Another mark in your favor that helps to mitigate some of your flaws is the fact that you are a very stylistically and aesthetically sound piece of filmmaking. The London that you portray is one of deep purples and dark blues at dusk, mirroring those bruise-like marks found on your protagonist’s face. Likewise the nights are dark and light by the phosphorous-colored street lamps in a way that always menaces.
This mood is only aided by the apocalyptic visions that plague the world. Demon-faced gangs roam the streets setting fire to the innocent. A claw-handed gangster lurks in the shadows threatening everyone who comes near. A charismatic Faustian figure offers great gifts at a low price, but the young girl who acts as his ward seems to be less of a willing accomplice and more of a hostage.
Add to this the many psychological scars that accompany the protagonist’s physical ones and the myriad of secondary characters who also have their own stories and at times your plot may seem a little bloated. And while everything does come to a kind of all-together resolution at the end, it feels just a little too pat in some places, though never strays into the realm of the ridiculous.
A wealth of ambition should never be marked as a negative when weighing the worth and value of a movie, but that also cannot stand as a a cure-all for the shortcomings of a film either. With a few tightened plot threads or toned-down pieces of symbolism you might have reached some level of cult mastery. As it stands, you are simply a flawed, yet ultimately worthy piece of filmmaking that can be enjoyed as a low-impact but still thought-provoking good time.
With muted but amiable affection,
Brian J. Roan