The Price We Pay - Grimmfest Northern UK Premiere Review
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Gigi Zumbada, Eleanor Burke, Vernon Wells, Amazon Eve
Written by: Christopher Jolley
Produced by: Mark Andrews, Jessica Bennett, Robert Dean, Stephanie Denton, Bill Kelman, Todd Lundbohm, Andre Relis
Cinematography by: Matthias Schubert
Original Score by: Aldo Shllaku
After a pawn shop robbery goes askew, two criminals take refuge at a remote farmhouse to try to let the heat die down, but find something much more menacing.
You're at the cinema or you're scrolling through a streaming platform and you come across a film with the title ‘The Price We Pay’. With no context whatsoever you might think that you are in for some kind of morality based inflective drama about the consequences of leading a destructive life. Then you see that it is directed by Ryûhei Kitamura and all of those notions of an elevated drama are thrown right out the window as you know that with him behind the camera there will be blood, lots and lots of blood. Moving from one preconceived notion to another, what kind of film should you expect with ‘The Price We Pay’?
After a botched robbery at a pawn shop, three criminals kidnap a woman to make their escape only to break down in the middle of nowhere. They come across a seemingly abandoned ranch where they decide to take refuge for the night but all is not as it seems as they soon find themselves in a very compromising position. The film very much follows the tried and tested format found in the likes of ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ where it starts as one kind of film (in this case a crime thriller) only to turn completely on its head before the final act. Unlike the mid 90s horror, ‘The Price We Pay’ blatantly points to this during its prologue underselling the sudden genre shift. The comparisons don't stop there as the dialogue from Christopher Jolley tries to emulate Tarantino but it is so contrived. For a B-Movie like this it is usually a passable offense but here it sticks out like a sore thumb to the point that any attempt to make a character sound cool is a wince inducing moment of embarrassment.
Now there is an argument to be made that this is done on purpose when you look at the character of Alex (played by Emile Hirsch). A wild card psychopath who plays by his own rules, he doesn't come off as being quite the badass he thinks he is. Instead he feels like a teenager with a short fuse and a pocket knife. Hirsch really throws himself into this character which seems to be nothing more than a cheap knock off of Tarantino's character Richie in Robert Rodriguez’ ‘96 classic.
The other main characters rounding out the relatively small cast include the grizzled ex ranger turned thief Cody (played by Stephen Dorff). Although he isn't given a lot in terms of character his gruff demeanor gets him by as he comes at odds with Alex's unprofessional behaviour. Opposite him, the hostage Grace (played by Gigi Zumbado) gives probably the best performance of the film. Down on her luck she is thrown into this extraordinary situation but taps into her natural survival instincts to get through it. Zumbado plays the role so well as she exhibits strength in the face of her situation rather than becoming a blubbering mess in need of a hero which features all too often for this kind of character within this genre. In a mainly male based cast she stands out and beyond them anytime she is on screen. Cult actor Vernon Wells also makes a welcome appearance as a nefarious figure who he plays with sanctimonious delight. Amazon Eve is also a stand out with a very physical performance as the disturbing yet powerful Jodi.
Everything in the opening half of the film is pretty standard and passable in terms of the score, cinematography and even the direction. It feels like the film is going through the motions, with Kitamura patiently waiting to play with his toys as the third act rolls. It is at this point the film completes its transition from thriller to full blown bloody schlock fest. With a body of work in the horror genre including ‘Midnight Meat Train’ and most recently the ‘Mashit’ segment from ‘Nightmare Cinema’ the audience knows what they are in for with Kitamura when the twist unveils itself. He certainly lives up to his reputation as faces melt, heads explode and eyes are extracted in a gruesome yet entertaining fashion that we've become accustomed to in his work. With this strong ending that descends into a gore filled chaos you can't help but feel short changed by the quality of the rest of the film.
The setup and most of the execution of ‘The Price We Pay’ may be derivative of many other films in the genre with a tonal imbalance throughout but there is still a decent structure there for an over the top piece of brutal entertainment. Sadly the sub par script lets it down at almost every opportunity, which is a shame given how much talent there is both in front and behind the camera.
- Joseph McElroy
'The Price We Pay' received it Northern UK Premiere at Grimmfest on October 8th