SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Reklaw begins with a man and a woman celebrating their anniversary over dinner. The lady, Melissa (Tasha Guevara), then pops a pill and tells Clifton (Michael Cortez), her date, that he can do anything he wants to her once they get home. Hours pass, and she wakes up to find him dead.
Soon, a group of well-meaning people enters her home to clean up the crime before the police show up. The leader of this group is Lott (Lance Henriksen), a former prosecutor who knows that prison does not truly help rehabilitate people. His crime-scrubbing band is comprised of the spirited Bangs (Scott Allen Perry), the vigilant Wylie (Michael Schnick), the possibly autistic Donna (Clara Francesca Pagone), and the surly Misanthrope (Polaris Banks). As Lott is explaining to Melissa what to do, an unexpected twist in the case poses a fatal threat to the would-be heroes.
Writer-director Polaris Banks plops viewers down directly into the action, as Reklaw runs a mere 12 minutes long. This is both a positive and a negative. The good thing is there is not a wasted second, as both the characters and story are effectively introduced and pulls the audience in. The odd demeanor of these people and how they dress, specifically wearing glasses with fake eyes, intrigues the viewer. Audience members will also want to see Melissa grow and become better after this tragedy she does not recall.
“…a group of well-meaning people enters her home to clean up the crime before the police show up.”
The negative is that the film feels like an episode of a television show. How Lott brought these people together, how they can detect crimes immediately after they’ve happened (superpowers?), and trying to figure out if Melissa is recruited to help, a la The Shadow-style, would flesh out this world quite a bit. There just isn’t time to explore all that with such a brief runtime. Adding a minute or two long crudely animated prologue would significantly help and not hurt impact the runtime in any meaningful.
Aside from the quick and admittedly action, even if one does not totally understand the why of it all, the thing that makes Reklaw worth it is the acting. Henriksen has been doing genre work forever, and he brings his usual gravitas and dimensionality to Lott. He gets a brilliant monologue near the end that is heartfelt, and the actor nails the emotions perfectly. He is ably supported by all the other actors, each of who gets a moment to shine. Melissa’s heartbreak over what happened is sold well by Guevara.
Reklaw is a fun dip into a bizarre world and an important look at how the criminal justice system does not also do what it intends. The acting is great, especially from a game Henriksen who clearly relishes the part, and the production design is top-notch. Banks just needed to make it ever so slightly longer, so this world makes as much sense to the audience as it presumably does to him.
Reklaw screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
"…a fun dip into a bizarre world..."