Alkis Vidalis made friends while serving time in prison. Friends, in the very loose sense of the word, with a corrupt and wealthy businessman, Daniel Bezerianos. When Alkis’s freedom is granted, he’s quickly picked up by Bezerianos’ gangster enforcers to contrive a public viral video with Alkis delivering a verbal message that would exonerate the still imprisoned crime boss and put the blame solely on a rival kingpin, Joseph Forkou. Held in Bezerianos’ rural porn studio building, Alkis commits to the plan that will, for now, save his own skin and as he’s going through the numerous takes to get an absolute resounding performance that will surely free Bezerianos, in the back of his mind, he knows will be undoubtedly be disposed of once his use to Bezeriano has dried up. Alkis’s fight tooth and nail survival and plan-as-he-goes quick thinking must ensure his fate through a multi-level building and a slew of heavily armed henchmen from two criminal factions who all want him dead before the video is uploaded to the internet cloud.
Not many Greek films come across my desk as a reviewer, but when they do show up at the door or in the mailbox, extreme anticipation salivation to pop the disc in the player and hit play begins its rampant course through the core of my body and shoots straight up to my bloodshot eyeballs. Dimitris Tsilifonis’ “Do It Yourself” is no exception as the 2017 action-thriller challenges us to take matters, big or small, into our own hands when push comes to shove and backed into a corner. Written and directed by Tsilifonis, the filmmaker takes the point in his first feature opportunity, aiming high and executing a non-linear, non-formulaic storyline that will keep viewers guessing how, what, when, why and who. “Do It Yourself” seizes the system as a calculated thrill ride that’ll entertain, equaling the same amount of narrative hip-slinging causticity of the last Greek film ventured by Its Bloggin’ Evil, a zomedy known as “Evil: In the Time of Heros” starring Billy Zane and directed by Yorgos Noussias.
As a small time pawn, Alkis Vidalis has prowess in formulating plans quickly; they may not go accordingly and he may break a nose or a leg in the process, but Alkis, like a cat, always seems to land on his two feet when in a skirmish with hired henchmen, coming out bloody but on top. Alkis isn’t a killer but has to become one in order to survive and even though he’s the central character to the story, mystery shrouds around him in what drives the favorable anti-hero to not cower and stay alive other than pure, animal instinct. Konstadinos Aspiotis has the chops to bring Alkis to the screen and express that oxymoronic quality of unsure confidence in Alkis’s mob misadventure. Tsilifonis writes voice over monologue in Alkis’s voice, as if he’s telling a story to the audience, for exposition purposes that describe the setup and the characters which fundamentally weakens the film, but for this particular tale, the voice over monologue is warranted. Aspiotis has numerous interactions with various characters but more so with Makis Papadimitriou as Peter, a low-level enforcer trying to make a name for himself. More like a caretaker than an enforcer, Peter has one job: to make Alkis think they’re friends and then kill him. However, Peter, who isn’t necessarily a screw up, fudges his task and caught in one of Alkis’ fly by the seat of your pants plans. The character is etched with more a selfish attitude toward everything when the tables turn on him and Papadimitriou cultivates all of Peter’s self-regarding desires into the correct power and survival categories while his dynamic with Alkis is looking at himself in a mirror. They mirror so much so that both characters receive their own perspective of the same event. Other characters intertwine with the two leads and they’re played by Mirto Alikaki, Christos Loulis, Argyris Xafis, Panos Koronis, and Themis Panou.
Tsilifonis script has an affinity for pop culture, referencing various films and TV shows by name, such as Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” or HBO’s “Game of Thrones” for example, to juxtapose events and/or characters on a mafia level. Films and television shows are not alone in this homage of iconography as social media websites and their viral and trendy sensations are integrated into the script as table talk conversations. 4chan, Youtube, and The Fappening are particularly referenced when the editor of Alkis’s testimony, also a porn editor with an inflatable sex doll, finds the conservatively torrent side of Google’s acquisition of Youtube distasteful for edgy content and the humor in the bare exposures of star-studded private lives and photos with 4chan and The Fappening while thumb jockeying a Playstation controller in midst of conversation with Peter who seems relatively neutral about these things. Even though suavely placed, “Do It Yourself” frequently uses the pop culture tag words in excess that render them redundant and tiresome that when in retrospect, Tsilifonis could have completely omitted them and “Do It Yourself” can, well, do it itself. The only other gripe with “Do It Yourself” is if the plot takes place entirely in a porn studio, then where was the nudity? Am I wrong?
Artsploitation Films delivers another knockout thriller title from their eclectic catalogue with Dimitris Tsilifonis’s “Do It Yourself” on DVD home video, presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Between Aggelos Papadopoulous’ depth defying photography and the impressive visual effects that flawlessly moves and puts a building in the middle of nowhere, the transcendence image quality is one with this release as it’s practically impossible to conclude what’s real and what a visual effect. Other visual effects of displaying Ikea like instructions on the side of a building, showing the cell phone screen next to Alkis, or having subtitles embedded into portions of the wall are unique and clever, but too far and in between that ends up being an inconsistent inconvenience. The dim tint sets the tone while still mastering the color palate. The Greek language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound allows you to hear every glass break, every ping of a bullet ricochet, and every guttural and verbal echo in the reverberating car garage through the five channels. The prominently Greek with little English dialogue is in the forefront amongst a well-balanced range and depth of sounds like hearing the muffled voices behind glasses, the soft moans and groans of porn actors behind the fake walls, and, on the other side, the high squeal of a racing tire wheel. Bonus features include a three small featurettes that revels how the camera shot elevated up from ground level to the top, another was the visual effects breakdown in creating the building structure, and the last being two deleted scenes. Dimitris Tsilifonis’ has a commentary track and 14 minute short film “The Way of Styx” is also available. “Do It Yourself” is no Bob Vila special on how to repair the seeping drips from a leaky sink with your own two God-given hands, but the Dimitris Tsilifonis film bustles with fun in a deluge of crime and betrayal and that, my friends, is a priceless enlightened experience.
Three backpacking American tourists and good friends Daniel, Alicia, and Chris tour through the Georgian countryside, looking for that one last hurrah before Daniel and Alicia tie the knot. When the trip seems to be going well, Chris steps on an old landmine, leaving him grounded and motionless to the spot. The next series of events will determine their fate as an psychopathic local and his Rottweiler happen upon the frightened and helpless Americans. Caught in a maniac’s twisted game, their only chance for survival is to play by the local’s Machiavellian rules or otherwise take their own life-risking chances by stepping off the a shrapnel-exploding, flesh-piercing, life-ending mine.
“Landmine Goes Click” bares no one identity. The Georgian thriller from director Levan Bakhia cleverly abridges four genres together, resulting in one intensely merciless story of unfortunate and deadly circumstance intently set to destroy one’s emotions. Bakhia teams up again with writer Lloyd Wagner, both who’ve previously worked on heated horror chiller “247°F,” and are joined by Adrian Colussi to substantiate a story that’s dices through a range of plot subdivisions from thrilling and exploitive to revengeful and tragic.
Kote Tolordava, the late Georgian actor who tragically died of a heart attack shortly after filming, defines the look and the manner of a sleazeball psychopath. A straggly comb over laid upon unkempt shoulder length hair with a stubbly five o’clock shadow that rests beneath a bushy Georgian bred mustache combined with an over extended gut stretching a bulbous silhouette in a white under shirt that’s covered with a breast opened, military-like navy colored coat sizes up Tolordava’s Iiya character as a harmless human joke, but pair that look with a loaded Remington, a muscle-laden Rottweiler, and a taste for taking advantage of the situation and you have a maniacal genius ready to reap the benefits of your misfortune. Tolordava’s wears Ilya’s clammy skin as if it’s his own, playing the local kook with a sadistic hard-on.
But Sterling Knight, as Chris, carried the film to a jarring conclusion, especially in the last acts. My initial reception of Chris was a big question, why does Chris, whose unable to move from the landmine, severely antagonize a creature like Ilya? Once the characters progress to a level of no return, to a level of depravity and maliciousness, understanding Chris was no longer an enigma and how Chris follows up with Ilya begs, absolutely begs, for retribution. Knight’s day and night performance tells tales of his acting talent. Don’t let the youthful face, the deep blue-eyes, or the Justin Beiber vocals fool you, Sterling Knight demonizes handsomeness.
With Tolordava and Knight, Spencer Locke, K-Mart from “Resident Evil: Extinction” and “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” had the toughest role to be burdened with as Alicia being an object of affection for not one, not two, but three characters and, in two of characters’ cases, in a malevolent way. Locke’s scenes were the most difficult to gape at, but her character ends up being the driving force behind almost everything that happens, even to divulged information prior to the beginning of this film to which we are not privy. Alicia is essentially the epicenter that crumbles the foundations of lives around Daniel, Chris, and even Ilya and like an epicenter, Alicia becomes the butterfly effect that ripples devastation from a single event. Like I said, a role that bares a heavy burden.
Bakhia utilizes effects that can be easily overlooked. His use of miniatures of the Georgian countryside, compositing them with the live action motor vehicles, is a stunning visual, alluring to our minuscule selves in the world. Also, the director, I noticed, does many long takes by swerving the camera from side-to-side that may consist of a stationary position or even tailing to characters, obtaining individual reactions and letting the scene play out without as much as a single edit for a lengthy period of filming. My first experience with Bakhia at the helm isn’t spoiled with gaudy gore or an outlandish unrealistic script; “Landmine Goes Click” thoughtfully provokes our inner animal and is constructed and edited similar to the style of Oscar winner Martin Scorsese. No film goes without flaws as I thought some of the fade to black editing was oddly placed and the overlapping during genre transition didn’t settle with the mood at the time. However, I’m not a big fan of exposition, but I thought there was enough exposition to get us through on how Chris managed to step on a landmine and also to what really happened to Alicia. Any more footage would have been overkill, making the 110 minute runtime that much smoother.
“Landmine Goes Click” rightfully found a home as an Icon Home Entertainment Frightfest Presents. Spurred with volatile tension and a dynamically charged cast, “Landmine Goes Click” is the tip of the Levan Bakhia ice berg and watch out for more films from Sterling Knight, an actor that can steal a scene, or in this case, a movie right from under another talented actor Kote Tolordava. Since the disc sent to me was a screener, I am unable to review the audio and video qualities, but I can say that there wasn’t much bonus material aside from an introduction of the film by Frightfest’s Alan Jones and Paul McEvoy and the other Frightfest film trailers. Like a good concealed explosive device, “Landmine Goes Click” exploitatively shreds through your soul, cleaving barbed shrapnel to linger and rot in the confined spaces of psyche.