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By Merle Bertrand | June 12, 2008

For all the unrelenting, building tension, and for all the inexorable sense of impending doom found in director Geoffrey Pepos’ intense drama “The Violent Kind,” perhaps the most chilling moment of the film comes at the very end of the credits. For it’s there, as the viewer is still absorbing the lethal, tragic breakdowns of both Terry Malloy (Kirk Harris), a returning Iraqi war veteran, and his Vietnam vet father, George (John Savage), that this normally innocuous, yet slightly modified disclaimer appears: “This is a fictional encounter. Any resemblance, or attitude in comparison with real people or animals depicted in this film to the living or dead, is, was, and WILL BE (caps added) coincidental.”

Regardless of one’s political persuasion, regardless of one’s feelings towards the seemingly unending war in Iraq, there can be no denying the growing number of news reports now coming out concerning the huge number of veterans returning home with various combat related mental disorders. In other words, Terry Malloy will indeed and unfortunately bear a striking resemblance to thousands of traumatized returning war veterans who will soon be among us.

Its powerful visuals reinforced by its nonlinear storytelling, “The Violent Kind” is a sort of cinematic, anti-war performance art piece. From a narrative standpoint, not all that much really happens on the surface. Terry comes back from the war a drunken, obnoxious lout, understandably seething with rage and bitterness. Retreating to his family’s home with his beautiful wife Jesika (Irina Bjorklund) and his father, Terry makes a token effort to reassimilate.

The pastoral surroundings don’t offer much relief, however, as Terry quickly finds himself drawn into a flirtatious game with his childhood best friend’s sultry sister Martina (Sandra Vidal), who is not only married to the town’s sleazy sheriff (Jack Rubio), but who has her mischievous eyes on Jesika. Combined with his own personal demons and the less than stellar support offered by George, a divorced alcoholic who suffers flashbacks from his own era, it’s no wonder that Terry snaps.

“The Violent Kind” is full of such hard to pigeonhole, morally ambiguous characters. Terry Malloy, for one, is the kind of dark, seething role Harris has built a career on, while Savage is equally up to the task as George.

Well acted and photographed in general, this taut, surreal, and slowly unfolding character study is a challenging film that tiptoes right up to the edge of self-indulgence several times, but always catches itself just in time.

Pepos’ coy disclaimer notwithstanding, “The Violent Kind” is not only a fine film in its own right, but, unfortunately also serves as a cautionary tale about what we can expect in our own probably tragic future.

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