Doctor's Review of Martyrs
Usually I wait at least a day or two before writing a review to let the movie sink in and I can evaluate my opinion. With Martyrs I want to flush it from my system as quickly as possible and hopefully never think about it again. It is brutal, ugly, and above all incredibly dispiriting. I have seen my share of graphic, disturbing films, some of which I have recommended because they also feature qualities that make the experience worthwhile, but this sadistic hellride offers practically none. I cannot think of another film I that wish I could unsee ahead of Martyrs. (Well, maybe The Matrix Revolutions.)
Here's the setup: one preteen girl Lucie escaped from a strange dungeon where she endured unexplained tortures. She wound up in an orphanage and bonded with the one girl Anna who felt sorry for her. 15 years later, Lucie thinks she has found the people who imprisoned her and sets a course of revenge with Anna close behind. That's the first half, which is extremely violent but contains an element of mystery: who are these kidnappers and what is their agenda? The biggest objection I have is that the second half revels in pain and suffering while barely moving the story forward, and fails miserably at providing any kind of resolution. We do partially find out the implausible motives, but ultimately are left hanging along with a sick feeling of emptiness. I suspect that they didn't really care about how they finished the movie as long as it gave them the excuse for the preceding hour and a half of extreme cruelty. That makes their choice of an existential theme in an attempt to make the ordeal seem important even more shameless.
Why one star then? It is well made, minus the overused shaky cam and twitchy editing, and had enough story to hold interest during the first half. But a well-made movie is not automatically a good movie, even if they got the response they were looking for. A well-placed finger down the throat will also get a predictable reaction, yet the results far from meritorious. Spare yourself the misery.