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By Jeremy Mathews | January 19, 2007

“Drained” is the kind of film that requires the most delicate tonal precision from its director. It wants to be funny, dark, shocking and emotionally resonant. But it’s a dissonant mess, as frustratingly bad as it is boldly ambitious.

Lead actor Selton Mello tries his hardest to hold the thing together with his straight-faced performance of Lorenço, a sociopathic a pawn shop owner. Lorenço spends his time tormenting and underpaying his desperate clientele, telling people the unpleasant smell from his bathroom drain isn’t him, staring at the a*s of a server at his local café and slowly revealing his insanity. The insanity—we can be sure—couches a deep insight to his tragic childhood, or something.

At the beginning of the film, he calls off his engagement because, he tells his fiancée, he never liked her or anybody else. The distraught, over-the-top woman then starts following him and threatening him, screaming, in what’s supposed to be a recurring gag but feels more like a parrot that won’t shut up, about how the wedding invitations are already at the printer. Problem is, Lorenço is such an unlikable malcontent that I can’t see why the woman would have called the printer in the first place.

Brazilian writer/director Heitor Dhalia introduces some noble concepts and creates some interesting visuals with energetic color palettes. But he stops short of making a cohesive picture. The film rambles for 110 minutes, and becomes less and less intriguing as the hero becomes more insane and his exploits more inane.

The most interesting scenes involve the regulars who come in trying to sell their possessions. Lorenço holds the power, as he has the money and the sellers need it. He doesn’t care about their tales of the items’ history, or their insistence that he isn’t paying enough money for their memories. Every so often, however, an item calls to him in such a way that he becomes powerless, willing too pay whatever the seller asks. This too, is supposed to hint toward the deep psychological reasons behind him being a complete a*****e. But only the Lorenço’s voice-over can really let us know what’s going on.

The narration boggles the mind. Non-existent for large stretches of the film, it appears out of nowhere to point out the most obvious things. It’s quite clear that Lorenço enjoys looking at the waitress’ a*s, and most intelligent viewers would have recognized that he’s self-conscious about the ever-present smell coming out of the bathroom, where the drain is clogged. By the time Lorenço tries to tell us something important, he’s already lost credibility, along with the film.

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