According to filmmaker Tom Shankland, WΔZ is “Saw meets Brokeback Mountain.” “No it isn’t,” says cast member Paul Kaye, “It’s Se7en meets Pi!” In truth, this grisly thriller steals from everyone – the Scandinavian angst of lead actor Stellan Skarsgård’s earlier Insomnia, the grim atmospherics of 1970s cop dramas like Dirty Harry, and, yes, the squalid torture porn of Hostel. A bit of a mish-mash then, shot in a murky half-light that suggests someone wiped the lens with an oily rag. Still, bring a strong stomach and you’ll find more than enough to justify the ticket price.
Skarsgård plays Eddie Argo, a grizzled NYPD detective for whom the sight of a pregnant woman’s corpse with Greek letters carved in her belly is just an occupational hazard. But soon it becomes clear the stiff is part of an elaborate payback scheme – the brainchild of rape victim Jean Lerner (Selma Blair) who, having been forced to sacrifice her mother’s life in order to save her own, is intent on proving there is no such thing as selfless altruism. Put in (s)layman’s terms, she tortures scumbags into electrocuting their loved ones. Nice!
Turns out Eddie knows more about Jean’s case than he’s letting on – something that may be related to his association with a minor hood and a final revelation that’s not quite the big surprise it should be. With Belfast standing in for New York and Australia’s Melissa George as the Swedish actor’s sidekick (“I don’t think our guy is going to stop till he gets to the end of the equation”), nothing is quite what it appears.
Besides, that is, for Blair, chillingly effective as an angel of death whose physical and emotional scar tissue gives WΔZ its fleeting bursts of searing authenticity. Still a bugger to type though...