Monday, November 10, 2014
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Women in Fury
Exactly how sleazy is ‘Women in Fury’?
Well, to begin with, it’s a women in prison film. You check your sense of aesthetics in at the door when you watch a women in prison film. And probably take a shower afterwards. A cold one.
Secondly, it’s directed by Michele Massimo Tarantini, whose CV includes schoolgirl sleaze opus ‘The Teasers’, the Edwige Fenech sex comedy ‘Policewoman’ trilogy (its middle instalment is subtly titled ‘Policewoman on the Porno Squad’; granted the indigenous title translates more as “vice squad” but still …), and the magnificently named sex ‘n’ jungle quickie ‘Massacre in Dinosaur Valley’ (which, in case anyone should mistake it for a ‘10,000 Years BC’ knock-off, was quickly retitled ‘Cannibal Holocaust 2’).
Thirdly, it features oodles of nudity.
’Kay, I’ll go make a cup of coffee while y’all scour the internet for it.
Everyone back? Good-o! Shall we do the plot synopsis thing? Jolly good! ‘Women in Fury’, which tries to con the viewer that it’s based on a true story, documents the misadventures of Angela Duvall (Suzane Carvalho), whom we first meet at the centre of a media frenzy as she’s found guilty of murder, hustled out of the courtroom and bundled into the back of a van that looks less an official security vehicle than something the production designer managed to borrow from a particularly mobile window cleaner the day before shooting.
While she’s en route to the kind of women’s prison where the uniforms consist of tied-off torso-revealing shirts with only two buttons, a word on the nature of her crime. Angela’s murdered a drug dealer, and instead of the legal system considering that she’s saved them a job, you’d think she was a former sports star charged with shooting his supermodel girlfriend for all the attention the verdict draws. (Sorry. Was that too soon?)
Anyway, it turns out Angela’s innocent. ’Twas her loser dope-fiend brother done the deed, but Angela fraternally takes the rap for him. Bad move, Angie; baaaad move!
The prison is ruled over by the absurdly named Captain Bonifacio (Leonardo Jose), who leaves the day-to-day running of the penitentiary to the obligatory predatory lesbian chief warden (Rosanna Ghessa), and doesn’t really involve himself in anything unless there’s a prison break and then it’s guns, watercannons and helicopters a-go-go as he and his men … But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s fifty minutes’ worth of prison life – with all the cat-fights, shower scenes and lesbianism that said milieu entails – before we get to the break-out.
Angela’s slung in a cell with Joanna (Gloria Cristal) and Paola (Marli Mendes) who respond to the warden’s overtures to Angela by whipping Angela with wet towels and proving their superiority in the time honoured tradition of soft-core girl-girl action. As bad as she’s treated at their hands, Angela’s saved from Joanna’s potentially homicidal intentions by the sympathetic-but-built-like-a-tank Denise (Zeni Pereira). It’s refreshing in this kind of movie that the butch black prisoner is something of a guardian angel rather than an aggressor. However, that’s the only remotely subversive element to ‘Women in Fury’. And Denise remains unable to intervene when the warden (I can’t recall the character being gifted with a name) finally gets Angela in her clutches for what is surely the ne plus ultra of sadistic sapphic prison warden scenes.
While all of this seedy business is going on, a subplot plods away in the background, slowing the pace and padding out the running time. It involves good-natured prison physician Dr Cuna (Henri Pagnoncelli) and his attempts to investigate the events surrounding Angela’s incarceration. This eventually leads him to her brother. Dr Cuna implores him to come forward and tell the true story, thus securing Angela’s release. The lad responds to this altogether reasonable request, and to his sister’s act of selflessness, by not giving a flying fuck.
With a confession from kid bro out of the question and Dr Cuna on Captain Bonifacio’s shit-list, things are looking pretty dismal for our beleaguered heroine. Then the prison break occurs and ‘Women in Fury’ shifts into action movie mode. Now, the escape attempt could have been a brilliantly sustained exercise in suspense, with the pressure cooker tensions and sexual rivalry of the prison spilling out into the steamy and dangerous territory of the jungle. And to be fair, the script does flirt with said possibilities on a couple of occasions. But Tarantini seems intent on making ‘First Blood’ but with half-naked women, and it soon becomes face-palming obvious that his facility as an action director is about on par with Sam Peckinpah as a director of light romantic comedy.
And so the last half hour desperately throws in gunfights, chases, helicopters, jeeps exploding and a desperate final stand in an old church. And does none of it even adequately. The last ten minutes in particular are an exercise in abject tedium. A coda suggests that Angela suffered amnesia as a result of the trauma, regressed to a childlike state and is happier as a result. Which, given that most of the other participants have been decimated long before the closing credits, makes you wonder whose testimony this so-called true story was based on. There’s a lesson here: if you’re making a sleazy women-in-prison film, at least be honest about it.