Neon Flesh Review
The FilmWhether it was nuns hooked on crack or children obsessed by breasts, there is a fine tradition of bad taste in modern Spanish language cinema. Only two years ago, the rather marvellous Sexy Killer proved that the vibrant early excesses of Almodovar and Lunas had an enduring impact on the film-makers who followed them. Now the writer of that fine and murderous film, Paco Cabezas, has loosed upon the world a comedy about gangsters, niche porn, prostitution and people trafficking.Our hero, Ricky, is a gay pimp with a heart of gold and he wants to bless his mother's release from prison by presenting her with a better future - that of being a madam at her very own whorehouse. Aided by Angelito, his macho fellow hustler, soon he has bought the place, kidnapped the “performers” he needs and, quicker than you could say DIY SOS goes pimping, the whole joint is soon jumping.
Yet, the course of female enslavement and industrial rape never did run smooth and Ricky is forced to manage his Alzheimer's plagued mum, the pregnancy of his kidnapped asylum seeker staff member and the attentions of top gangster on the block, the psychotic Chino. How can Ricky play the odds and find a way out of all his woes?Bad taste often creates humour because there are things in life that we know are terrible but can't stop ourselves from laughing at. In misery and depravity, some of the most comic of human foibles are revealed yet here despite the sad tranny, the drug addled prossie and the promiscuous schoolgirl, I never found myself near even a mild grin.
I say "despite" but I probably mean "because". Human desperation can be awfully funny and poignant, but not if it's being exploited duplicitously. And fiction it may be, but in Neon Flesh we are asked to follow kindly little gangsters who enslave peculiar and laughable women with the best of intentions, i.e. to please mum. In an act of unspeakable hypocrisy, Ricky and Angelito are excused of their responsibility because these women's fates would be so much worse if they weren't there for them.
Now you can save this kind of narrative if Ricky and Angelito learn the errors of their ways and free those they have caged, but they don't, not really. Babies are sold to rich people because that's better than killing the child, women are forced to sell themselves because it would be worse if they did it for less nice pimps, and so on. The morality is foul, the jokes don't work and some efforts at eventual deliverance ignore the original actions of our two "heroes".This is part caricature, part empowerment tale and frankly it won't do. In the end, irony doesn't earn you the right to gawp at enslaved women, laugh at their pathetic situations and identify with a lead whose tagged on sexuality is largely a device to make him seem less misogynist. I hated Neon Flesh and I think if you come to it wanting laughs you'll be disappointed, if you come wanting meaning you'll leave empty handed, and if you come with any respect for women you'll simply turn it off.
The DVDThere's many a striking image during this rather poor film and the cinematography is well represented by a transfer that retains good black levels and doesn't overdo the sharpness or edge enhance unnecessarily. The often bright colours are balanced well and basically this is a strong transfer.Stereo and 5.1 mixes are offered with English subs that can be turned off via your remote if not by a menu option. Given the preponderance of music and flashy set-pieces, then the way to go is the 5.1 mix which manages ambience well by mixing effects across the speakers and employing low frequencies to good effect.
A couple of trailers are offered for the film itself and then there's plenty of Showbox product also advertised. No featurettes are offered here/
SummaryThe quality of the film is nearer the less positive elements of Lunas' career rather than an Almodovar classic. The disc does a sound job of presenting the film with little in the way of extras.
2 out of 10
7 out of 10
6 out of 10
2 out of 10