Warren Cantrell reviews a new indie film from the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival:
Cristian Solimeno’s The Glass Man is an exceptionally bad movie, and is an exercise in poor filmmaking from nearly every angle. While the actors do their best to give inspired performances they no doubt hoped would elevate the sadistically vapid narrative, even the strongest and most dedicated rowing does little for a doomed craft tossing about in a tempestuous sea.
Hampered by a set-up that takes far too long, and a main character without a scrap of redeemable familiarity, The Glass Man actually finds a way to plunge even deeper into the suck once its big twist is thrown into play, at which point an already shitty movie goes completely off the side of Shit Mountain.
No, hold on: maybe that’s a little unfair. To call The Glass Man “shitty” is something of a slight to the really bad movies out there that might very well have been full-blown disasters, yet didn’t necessarily offend or antagonize. Yet The Glass Man has taken shoddy film making to an entirely new plane of existence. It’s director, Cristian Solimeno, has made a movie so monstrously foul and mean spirited that it would need Pauley Shore, Carrot Top, and Lindsey Lohan in a scene, together, running their nails down a chalkboard in a room full of dirty needles, to sink its prospects any further.
Yeah, this one is that bad. It centers on a recently-fired British man, Martin (Andy Nyman), who can’t summon up the courage to tell his wife that they have no income, and are rapidly sinking into debt. Out of a job for weeks, Martin continues dressing for work each day as if everything is alright, and has made no financial or professional adjustments to account for his total lack of income. Early on in the film, the audience sees that he is well behind on his mortgage, and has maxed out his credit cards to the limit. Though his wife, Julie (Neve Campbell), senses that something is up, and pleads with her husband to come clean, Martin can’t bring himself to tell her what’s happened, and continues piling lie on top of lie.
Enter Pecco (James Cosmo), a scarier-than-all-hell loan shark who shows up at Martin’s door in the middle of the night to inform the meek, cowardly little cur that money borrowed from some junky friend has been sold as a debt voucher to Pecco. In sum, Martin’s debt to a friend has just become Pecco’s, and Pecco is there to collect. Obviously without any money to pay the wall-of-man, Pecco tells Martin that he’ll either clean him out (taking all his possessions as repayment), or will wipe the debt clean for one night’s worth of work: no questions asked.
An interesting set-up to be sure, there are a few problems. First, it takes half a friggin’ eternity for the movie to get to this point, for Pecco doesn’t even arrive for almost 40 minutes into the picture, and by then, the audience has already begun to tire of Martin and his cowardly, deceptive antics. A weak and ineffectual man, Martin’s biggest character flaw is his inability to face his wife, and come clean about the financial trouble they are having. This acts as the hinge for the rest of the movie, for everything Martin does seems to be part of a sick, twisted drama meant to shield his spouse from harm.
Here’s the thing, though: it’s galling! The film never really gives its audience anything in the way of character development for its lead (Martin), whose entire dilemma could be resolved with a simple conversation with Julie. It’s like watching a movie where a person goes on a long, arduous journey by foot when a Ferrari is handy, and ready for use. Rather than develop his main character to explain this mind-boggling attribute, director Cristian Solimeno seems content to simply torture poor Martin, who is put through a series of gut-wrenching trials that serve little purpose except to build tension.
The mean-spirited streak running through this movie seems entirely appropriate by the end, for after the twist (which this reviewer won’t reveal), it becomes clear that the point of the film isn’t to reveal any deeper truths about Martin or his world, but is instead a vicious exercise in cringe-cinema. The Glass Man is a picture about a man suffering, and badly, yet it ultimately accomplishes little except a transmission of that same misery to its audience.
In this way, Solimeno’s film feels a lot like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, another film that never strove to do much except torment its main characters, along with the hapless audience along for the ride. In The Glass Man, this unapologetically dark, mean bent isn’t made any more tolerable by the long, score-heavy shots that Solimeno often holds for far too long, and doesn’t seem to know how to cut. The result is a poorly crafted, malicious piece of trash that actually gets worse as it progresses: a truly noble feat for a film that starts off agonizingly slow.
The Glass Man is currently playing at the Seattle International Film Festival, where it will no doubt leave audiences disoriented, bitter, and angry: a curious response to a film under normal circumstances, yet not for one that seems to have set out to do just that.