In this review, the underground film production company Ungovernable Films takes it to the streets with their Punk exploitation film The Ungovernable Force. Being that this is the same company that created films with titles like Honky Holocaust and Gay Jesus you have a pretty good idea what kind of film experience you are in for if you are at all familiar with their other work. So the question is “Does this Troma-style film capture the gleeful, grotesque magic of movies like Father’s Day or is it simply an hour and a half of boobs, cheap but explicit violence and porn-level dialogue?” Well, I guess there’s only one way for you punks to find out!
The film follows the exploits of Sal Purgatory (Jake Vaughan) a porn store employee who reconnects with his punk friends after being dumped by his girlfriend. His broken heart is quickly mended, however, once he’s finally able to work up the courage to talk to mysterious punk girl Louisa (Lindsay Winne) who he keeps seeing around town and becomes instantly infatuated with. When they stumble upon the body of a raped and murdered homeless woman, it sets them and their rag-tag group of punks off on a twisted adventure full of Nazis, corrupt cops, bum armies, strange chemicals and a whole lotta fucking.
First of all, I do want to point out that this is not a horror movie, although it does contain a lot of horrifying imagery and is without a doubt an Alternative Film. I feel fairly confident it will be a cold day in Hell before mainstream films start featuring unsimulated scenes of masturbation, shitting on the floor and a guy driving a nail through his tattooed cock(!). And yes, I do mean for real.
These are some prime examples of the kind of Punk Rock, Anarchist energy writer/director Paul McAlarney is clearly trying to capture for this film, and in some ways he does. An early scene at a Punk show effectively embodies this feeling as McAlarney infuses it with the kind of kinetic energy and authenticity of someone who clearly knows the culture. In addition to this, a solid Punk soundtrack plays throughout the film and clothing and set design both feel incredibly legit.
That being said though, a film is only as good as the story it is telling and unfortunately, this is where The Ungovernable Force comes up painfully short. At an hour and forty minutes, the film’s I-don’t-give-a-fuck style of film-making quickly wears thin and without a solid relationship to the characters or the story, it becomes less and less compelling to watch. Much like underground Punk films such as Threat and Mod Fuck Explosion, this is an example of a movie that effectively captures the look and feel of the subculture but lacks the competent storytelling and technical proficiency to be a successful film.
This is most evident in the forces of antagonism, or lack thereof, within the story. I know this is a purposely campy film with a virtually all-punk cast but regardless of the kind of unhinged feel you want a movie to have, you have to take some aspects of it seriously or the story simply won’t work. For instance, if you want to have an anti-authoritarian feel, then it’s not the best idea to have a cop with neck tattoos and a fake mustache acting like an over-the-top clown. It would have been far more subversive to play the cops straight and corrupt which would not only establish a feeling of genuine disgust for them from the audience but also give credibility to the struggles of the protagonists against them. As it is, it’s far too silly to make you care at all what happens and the times when the film does actually ask you to take it seriously, you simply can’t.
I find it ironic that despite the rebellious, counter-culture feel McAlarney is trying to achieve, the actual viewing experience itself becomes very similar to watching a sanitized Hollywood blockbuster. In both cases you are viewing films where you can’t take the characters or the plot seriously, so are not invested in either and are simply watching for the visual stimulation. The fact that that stimulation is nudity, cheap violence and gross-out gags rather than top-notch special effects doesn’t change the fact that it is mindless, escapist entertainment.
I also have to talk about the acting in this film. I’m not going to mince words here, it’s bad….really bad. To be fair, the occasional actor here or there was able to drum up a passable performance but for the most part the acting was unwatchably awful. I’m sure this was largely due to the fact that a lot of the primary cast seemed to be made up of non-actors or newcomers, save a few cameos from several (somewhat) recognizable actors. I’m not sure whether McAlarney wanted non-actors for a more authentic feel or if that was simply all he could get, but either way, having people who are unable to effectively create a suspension of disbelief makes the experience feel less authentic, not more.
Overall, I did enjoy the more fucked-up aspects of this film and the general look and style of it. If McAlarney had actually included a cohesive and interesting story and put some effort into at least trying to make the characters feel fleshed out and realistic, this could perhaps have been an effective film. As it is though, it looks more like something a bunch of college kids got together and shot over a weekend, using a loose outline instead of a script and paying the actors in beer.