I Promise You Anarchy **
Starring: Diego Calva Hernández, Eduardo Eliseo Martinez
Director: Julio Hernández Cordón
There's something of Gus Van Sant about this Mexican thriller, but that's not necessarily a compliment. Unfortunately we're not talking about his well-paced and well-plotted films like Milk, but instead the too-cool-for-school youth movies like Paranoid Park and Gerry which, like I Promise You Anarchy, are uneven and bordering on dull. If you lay its separate parts out on paper, then it looks like it should have the makings of a tightly wound thriller... but somehow it never quite lives up to its dramatic potential. Or even tries to.
Miguel (Hernández) is a middle-class skateboarder, who is having an affair with the bisexual Johnny (Martinez), the son of his parents' maid. Johnny continues a relationship with a girl, but despite this causing tension between the two, they go into business together, selling blood donations on the black market. Thinking they have hit the jackpot when they are instructed to gather fifty donors together, they round up friends and strangers alike to participate, but they are all horrified when they arrive to find a gang of armed men waiting for them.
If the two separate strands of that synopsis seem somewhat disjointed, it's probably because that's exactly what they are. The film's three acts (the romance, the deal and the consequences) could easily be three wholly different films and would probably have been better if they had been. The love triangle is never really explored because the characters actually seem somewhat ambivalent towards it. Then the deal, though horrific, is little more than a dramatic blip in what is otherwise a slow-paced and laboured meandering narrative.
Films like Paranoid Park and Brick rely on their audience being able to get under the skin of their otherwise unapproachable characters. Skater movies aren't the most accessible of films and unfortunately, I Promise You Anarchy falls foul of assuming that its audience buys into the "importance" of skating, as though it is some deified artform, whose practice entitles its participants to plaudits and admiration. But when Johnny runs from safety, not because he cannot be without Miguel but instead because he needs to skate, you can't help but wonder why this moment is being celebrated with sweeping feel-good music, when in reality he's probably making a foolish and possibly fatal error. Both characters make a massive mistake in this movie, but instead of acknowledging this, their angst is depicted as more important, somewhat undermining the entire main plotline of the film.
It's also really difficult to understand their relationship full-stop. Miguel is handsome, well-off and charming, whereas Johnny is the complete opposite. Maybe it results from childhood hero-worship, in the way that many rebellious children are admired initially by their peers before they realise their danger, but for this to have developed into romantic love seems somewhat implausible, especially when Johnny seems not to care one bit for Miguel. If we are meant to root for them to be together, this just falls flat on its face, off its skateboard and right into a pile of complete ambivalence. Why should we care about them, when they neither care for themselves or each other? Their complete apathy makes for boring viewing.
I Promise You Anarchy is trying to be a thriller, but fails to create any kind of tension. It's also trying to give social commentary, but doesn't seem to care about anything enough to make any salient points. And it's trying to be a bromance movie, but it doesn't even try to create chemistry between its characters. With so many composite parts swirling about in its oh-so self-aware indie cinematic melting pot, you'd think that there must be at least some kind of an interesting cocktail that could come out the other side? But no. It ends up a Sprepper: you like Sprite and you like Dr Pepper, but you don't want them mixed together, do you?