A movie directed by Eli Roth
I think reviewers, by and large, exist to point out the exceptions. The vast majority of anything we can use is “ok”; whatever “it” is works and does what we expect. Reviewers, in this instance, validate this status. But the important responsibility is to expose and explain (where needed) an item that is truly fantastic or truly horrible.
99 Pieces is so bad, that I’m probably going to have to emend my list of 10 Worst Films I Ever Finished essay. Should I do it, 99 Pieces will be worse than both Hannibal and Hostel.
Joshua and Samantha Licet are a youngish couple having marital difficulties—by implication. In an attempt to get away and perhaps mend the rifts, the couple has planned a two-week vacation. The Licets never leave. Samantha is briefly kidnapped while Joshua is presented with a letter and a box. The letter explains that he will only see his wife again if he consents to board up his house where he will then spend 40 days trying to solve a puzzle. Once he follows the rococo list (board up the house, remove all but one light, remove anything that can be used as a weapon usw) he then gets the rules. The rules involve a point system that limits access to necessities like food and water then limit them further by allowing a diminishing number of points to spend.
The pieces appear along with other items, one piece comes with a set of bowls for instance. As the pieces enter, the narrative shifts a bit. Each piece prompts a flashback to the event symbolized in the puzzle piece. It then follows that as the days continue, the planned deprivation begins, then continues to intensify, as does, presumably, the stress to solve the puzzle.
So the plot thumbnail is that the audience watches as a barely viable couple handles the stresses of being slowly tortured. I can say no more about the plot here in case there is a brave soul willing to waste 100 minutes of her/his life. However, there will be plot spoilers below—this is your warning should you have made it even this far.
The acting was all in all not bad. Anthony Falcon who plays Joshua is actually good when he isn’t screaming (his scream isn’t convincing). That is the only thing I cannot destroy outright, I all but destroy it below though. So I may as well say that now.
The film is the absolute worst parts of the Saw movies and the genre driven by I Know What You Did Last Summer. Some all powerful “I” has seen your lies and sins and the people you have hurt and has decided to play impetuous demi-god with you. Every one of us has seen this movie before. There are far more films other than the ones listed and implied that cover impossible choices and torture writ slow and mostly self-inflicted. If you are just someone who is compelled to waste 100 minutes on a story even tangentially related to what I explain, pick the worst movie from the categories that you have seen—now watch it again. Your time would be way better spent like that.
The flashbacks involve a business partner, mistress, her husband, her other tricks, a drug addicted father, a potentially felonious accountant, maybe a cop, a couple of people in anger management classes, and a nasty neighbor. It is impossible to keep them separate. Apparently this is by design. Anyway, since Samantha in-flashback is so different looking than Samantha in-confinement, I actually thought she was the accountant more than once.
There is nothing at all redeeming about the film. Wait there’s more. According to imdb.com, Mr. Falcon lost 20 pounds in 17 days “starving himself for the movie.” Just because you do crap like that doesn’t mean automatic success. Christian Bale lost about a third of his body-mass to make The Machinist and that movie was terrible. “Suffering” for “art” is overrated because usually the sufferer is only good at suffering and not at making art.
Wait, there is still more. Anthony Falcon also wrote and directed this bit of what my cat coughs up after a dry heave. Wait, there is just one more cherry: his production company also produced it. This leads to one of two conclusions: he was so supremely arrogant that his film would be a success that he didn’t let anyone else have any creative say, or, no producer with a firing brain cell would consider it.
99 Pieces is so unredeemable that I want the auteur, Mr. Falcon, to spend 100 minutes in jail for everyone who actually stayed to finish the film—he gets a pass for the people who were not so stupid as I and decided to walk out at any time prior to the end.
Since the music is so mood-inappropriate for the film—literally jarring—it ranks as one of the most bothersome aspects. The songs, full orchestration and loud lyrics, would belong to any movie in the Say Anything vein. My eyes bugged out when I read this bit: “Special thanks to the musical artists who supported this film with their passion and belief in the arts . . . it will never be forgotten.” I have to wonder if the musical artists were friends in need of cash, folks who lost a bet, or what is worse, the only people left willing to keep giving cash once filming started and everyone else saw it as a combined trainwreck-boatwreck.
I cannot stop myself from spoiling the whole thing. If you’ve gotten this far and have no intention of seeing the film, then read on—the plot twist is so retched I cannot stop myself from going into it. If you would rather not know . . .
I give away the plot twist here, so stop reading here if you don’t want to know it.
The tormentor shows himself and says he invented the “game” to hide 4 people he killed and set up the situation to make Josh take the blame. To do this, he has had to spend time following Josh and Samantha around to uncover enough of their sins to use for the puzzle. Also, since his “game” is so creator intensive, he has to be on site the whole time—in the garage. Yes . . .on site . . . the whole time.
That would be supremely upsetting had the movie otherwise been not public-toilet-tile-floor bad. But it actually gets worse. He then gives a sermonette lambasting a character like Josh for being so self-important to think that a game like that would be created around him and his petty life.
See the total logical failure here? He follows them, then keeps watching them from his base in their garage. He is also so bad an actor that his little diatribe comes across as if he were a “real” person interrupting the narrative to point a finger at the audience for even supporting the notion that a character like Josh is justified in being self-centered.
Not only did I force myself to the end, I got chastised for doing it.
As a bit of recapitulation, reviewers tend to use a bit more verbiage on bad items than on the mediocre or the good. The reason should be mostly apparent: it is our revenge for putting up with it.
What did you think of this review?
A movie directed by Eli Roth
Horror film released in 2004, directed by James Wan