Synopsis: A young man tries to make some money so he can marry his girlfriend. He takes a job for $2,000 and then soon realizes that this job involves killing a woman.
Round-up: "Kinatay" is getting some of the most extreme reactions of any film coming out of Cannes with Roger Ebert's damning review leading the pack. "There are few prospects more alarming than a direc... tor seized by an Idea," writes Ebert. "I don't mean an idea for a film, a story, a theme, a tone, any of those ideas. I'm thinking of a director whose Idea takes control of his film and pounds it into the ground and leaves the audience alienated and resentful. Such a director is Brillante Mendoza of the Philippines, and the victim of his Idea is his Official Selection at Cannes 2009, 'Kinatay.' Here is a film that forces me to apologize to Vincent Gallo for calling 'The Brown Bunny' the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival." Similarly negative is Jay Weissberg, writing for Variety, who calls the film "an unpleasant journey into a brutal heart of darkness. Mendoza strengthens his gift for describing space with inquisitive cameras, but as the helmer's star rises, his subtlety wanes, resulting in obvious statements made banal by heavy-handed ironies. This noirish tale of an innocent guy drawn into a dark world of torture and dismemberment understands that an unwilling accomplice is still tarred by fate, but the pic's graphic nature does realism no favors." Other critics, however, have praised Mendoza's uncompromising depiction of brutality, even if they find the film hard to watch. The Telgraph's Sukhdev Sandhu writes that "Frankly, most people will find Kinatay (it means 'butchered') either unremittingly tedious, harrowing or vile. Possibly all three. Mendoza is no gore-hound. He's more serious than ['Irreversible' director Gasper] Noe. This is a fiercely moral and horribly unforgettable denunciation of societal corruption." "With the artistic choices he has made, Mendoza achieves a singularity of purpose in hammering home his message, and the experience compels one to watch even as one wishes to turn away," writes Maggie Lee for the Hollywood Reporter, a sentiment echoed by Mike D'Angelo at the AV Club who remarks that "I admire 'Kinatay' for its uncompromising rigor - the lengthy van ride, which constitutes nearly half the film, is a tour de force - but I can't bring myself to like it."