Piercing review

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Mia Wasikowska stars in Piercing, an unpredictable, pretty unforgettable movie.

Director: Nicolas Pesce
Lead cast: Mia Wasikowska
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Matt Edwards

Nicolas Pesce, the writer/director behind The Eyes Of My Mother, returns with a stylish and bleak adaptation of Ryu Murikami’s Piercing. The playfully dark film finds Mia Wasikowska as prostitute Jackie, who reports to a hotel room unaware that an ambush awaits. The trap, laid out by Christopher Abbott’s killhungry Reed, does not proceed according to plan. A twisted series of reversals and changes of fortune ensue.

A film that’s full of unexpected twists, Piercing is able to generate a significant amount of tension thanks to its willingness to regularly take unexpected turns. It’s not just that it’s unpredictable, but that each turn into new territory finds a nasty new element of the story waiting for us. You might not know what’s going to happen, but you can bet it’s going to make you wince. It feels like a film constantly peeling away layers to show you something darker that lies beneath. It presents you with interesting plot points, then lets them serve as misdirection for the next plot point. It’s alluring in the same way that reading a mystery story is; you find out a piece of information and it makes you think you know what the story is, only for the next piece of information to change the story and alter the meaning of the last thing we learned.

It’s not really a mystery story, though. In fact, Piercing is a difficult film to classify, with elements of thriller, horror and black comedy all at play. One of the few missteps, use of music from 70s giallo movies which doesn’t quite seem to work, serves to highlight an area of influence. That giallo influence comes out in some of the theming, with kinky sex, drugs and psychopathy all threaded into the story. A perfectly measured film, Pesce keeps things nicely contained. There’s stylish cinematography, but just a few locations. It moves at a brisk pace, but over just a brief runtime (around 80 minutes). It features compelling performances (Wasikowska, in particular, is spectacular), but from just a small cast. And when he’s finished with the story, the film abruptly ends.

Piercing is a twisted, tense and original film, and fans of extreme and inventive cinema would do well to seek it out and support it. It’s a gleefully dark experience.

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