Rendel – Dark Vengeance
Writer – Pekka Lehtossari, Mikka J. Norvanto, Timo Puustinen, (created by) Jesse Haaja
Director – Jesse Haaja
Runtime – 105 minutes
Black Lion Pictures
Bad Beaver Productions
Sadly Finland remains largely ignored on a global scale. Need proof? Let’s have an impromptu quiz…Finland is famous for what, exactly?
…Times up! If it weren’t for its musical scene, especially in the metal arena, it might be forgotten completely, and quite honestly I’ve never heard of a film escaping it’s borders to acclaim. Perhaps it’s that I’m ignorant (Yes, I most certainly am!).
Then, along came Rendel. And yet again crowd funded support comes to the rescue thwarting the dastardy whims of Hollywood and the urban myth that a successful filmmaker needs at least a couple of million dollars and the assistance of a few dirty old men (I’d use other words but I don’t wish to be pulled into a ludicrous lawsuit) in order to put out a fin she’d product that will even reach the masses.
Now, Rendel looks more than a smidgen like Spawn (without the chains, cape and crimson highlights) even more like Batman (cited as a huge influence by the director himself) but nothing at all like Superman or Groot (I’m not Groot!).
So what does Rendel (whoops nearly typed Grendel then, ironically another Superhero type with much the same appearance) bring to the table? He doesn’t shot lazer beams from the depths of his orbital sockets, he isn’t able to move faster than a bolt of lightning (nearly said Flash – whoopsie!), he can’t stretch to obscene dimensions (where’s the cinematic adaption of this character?) or make objects appear in green light from out of a snazzy ring originating from another universe entirely. Shit, he doesn’t even have the abilities required to demand that Aquaman prepare him a tuna fish sandwich (with extra mayo, easy on the ketchup – what!?). Better than all this however (this is up for debate, naturally. As who doesn’t wish they could fly or flick an annoying A-hole across the room without much effort at all), he possesses ‘drive’ making him altogether human and perhaps in that sense more relateable to many. Seriously WTF is kryptonite anyway? (I can’t find it anywhere in Walmart).
Without stating what makes the black suited fella tick I’ll merely mention that he has a deep hatred for a national conglomerate with the power to force an untested vaccine down the collective populaces gullet. Did Jenny McCarthy have anything to do with this script I’m wondering. Of course there are other details which I won’t divulge that flesh out the story but I don’t wish to offer more spoliers than I need to in order to spoil anyone’s enjoyment.
Onwards. The film moves at an exciting pace from its beginnings, as it does so it introduces an array of characters most of which the viewer will instantly despise. There’s a mob boss, someone I csn only assime is his drinking buddy and the bosses hugely incompetent offspring complete with an affixed scary companion. This gent drags around a bloodied baseball bat and pectorals so large they reside in another zip (postal) code entirely. An army of cohorts all severly lacking in the ‘smarts’ department carry out most of the dirty work and naturally are the first to feel the wrath of he who looms in the shadows and dispenses justice (can I get a side order of fries with that please and supersize my diet coke).
The feel of Rendel is dark and gritty (DC rather than Marvel in case you were wondering) because after all the world isn’t all roses, perfume and supermodel orgies. It’s raw, bleak and punishing especially if you dwell in the criminal underworld which is largely where this feature resides.
Rendel’s fight scenes which are more often than not are gloriously violent without dipping into over the top wirework territory, they thankfully display minimal CGI effects that which is deemed guilty, by many, of putting a damper on many a cinematic proceeding.
For realistic effect Rendel takes a beating as often as he dishes it out, yet another reason why this is more realistic than most ‘traditional” superhero affairs. However much like other features in the same genre there are scenes where our hero gets pushed to his very limits by way of a small group of mecenaries gathered from the far reaches of the planet, lets call this collective ‘the elite’. Those with reputations who preceed them brought in to put an end to the many distractions Rendel has caused, not to mention the lost revenues. These scenes of conflict are somewhat reminiscent of when end level bosses arrive in platform games (take a moment to ponder upon your favorite fir a second, then think upon how many times it took you to complete that one level). Predictability is tossed out the window in many of these moments often lending a dark comedic edge to heighten the viewers enjoyment that much more.
A quote that had me chuckling was the moment in which Rendel finds himself ‘reacquainted’ with one such merc. “I found my belt… it was wrapped around Stacie’s neck”.
Stacy, incidently, is played by the adorable Bianca Bradley (of Wyrmwood – Road of the Dead fame) if only I had known this previously, I’d have preordered and donated to Mr. Haaja’s vision in its infant stages.
Rendels motives, when they’re finally revealed (if the viewer hasn’t worked them out already), are understandable and not at all beyond the realm of everyday possibility. Other details are explained around the same time, some which might have been nothing but perplexing to the viewership before. Again – no spoilers, I try not to roll like that!
The film includes many sequences to widen the eyes, one a ‘coming of age’ development finale is up there with its finer moments, leaving the viewer in awe that this is Jesse Haajas first foray into the world of feature films, whereas before he’s developed his skills only in shorts and a Red Bull (made for TV) movie. More mind blowing is the minimal budget with which the film was conceived and produced, barely 1.5M€ (Euros) it has the feel of considerably more expensive project. Think the feel of the newer Batman films mixed with the original Underworld (Kate Benkinsale and her delicious accent) and you’ll be somewhat in the same thematic ballpark.
In conclusion, because I could literally go on forever, Rendel has a great deal to please it’s viewers. It has attitude, energy, a great supporting cast, villians you’d love to punch in the throat, a storyline that isn’t too hard to swallow and a hero who is altogether human oozing with emotion and a backstory that’s hard not to get behind. But most of all Rendel has undeniable style, sure it isn’t as hyper violent and as OTT as Ricky-O or Fudoh but it still delivers in an utterly comic book (not Anime) way and you’ve gotta love that, especially since it’s an alternate to every other superhuman type vigilante that’s being stuffed down our throats wherever we seem to turn.
My highest recommendation of course. Catch this and keep an eye out for future works from Mr Haaja, I’m sure this is merely the beginning of a fantastic legacy to follow.
Your slave to cinema fantastic, strange, obscure though often forgotten, overshadowed by the allure of big daddy Hollywood,
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