Hand, The (USA)
Bob says: "Poor, despondent Bruce is really just looking for a father figure. He lost his dad to gang violence when he was just a kid, and was taken in by a local priest who has protected him from certain ugly truths while attempting to teach him the ways of the church. But that hasn’t really worked out. In spite of all of Father Alfred’s support and instruction, Bruce has turned into your basic, scary, troubled, long haired, black leather-clad, Ramboesque anti-hero type guy, with a bit of the metalhead look thrown in for good measure.
"And then there’s the third potential father figure: Julian, leader of the local gang, The Killing Hand. While evil, heartless and bloodthirsty, Julian does have a few things going for him, at least from Bruce’s perspective: he’s very big on honor among thieves, the concept of power deriving from force rather than money, and 'family,' viewing his gang as one (or at least keeping his underlings in line by spouting off about such things). And of course, this family has its share of jealousies and rivalries. After Bruce has been properly tested, Julian’s ready to bring him into the clan. Let’s just say that that plan doesn’t quite work out either, and Bruce finds himself at odds with The Killing Hand. Really, things just don’t seem to work themselves out for Bruce.
"What follows is your basic 'the only thing I’m good for is taking out the trash' storyline, as Bruce offs gang banger after gang banger, all the while hating himself for failing himself, his various and sundry fathers, and the cute little gang chick who trusted him. Of course this includes the requisite scenes of the priest being beaten within an inch of his life for not giving up Bruce’s location and Bruce prepping for the final battle royale by creating his custom butt kicking cool-yet-troubled-guy weapons in the church metal shop. (Do churches really have metal shops?)
"Of course we know how all of this is going to work out. We do get a bit of misdirection – one rather obvious mystery gets clarified rather early on, and then late in the film we get the real clarification, but we’re never given a reason for this twist, except that it’s the big twist. And realizing it gives Bruce that power and anger he needs to finish off the last of his enemies when it looks like he’s about to be defeated. (Yes, I used to watch Hulk Hogan too.) But this big revelation doesn’t help us understand Bruce, because we don’t have any idea of why this happened the way it did. Besides, we don’t need to understand Bruce. We saw RAMBO (actually, I didn’t, but you know what I mean) and we’ve seen a few Metallica videos. We get it already.
"Shot on DV in Lowell and Haverhill, the filmmakers were clearly after something akin to THE CROW, but without the mysticism – something underground comic-like. They wanted dark, ugly, gritty, and hopeless, and for the most part, within their budgetary confines, they got it, but I think they bit off a little more than they were prepared to chew. The camera work is ok, the fight choreography is more or less ok, but the two combined just don’t mesh. There were probably some good moments on the set that the camera failed to catch, and there are certainly a few camera angles that ruin the illusion. And the acting… well, they tried.
"I’m sure there’s an audience that would appreciate the ideas behind THE KILLING HAND and the efforts made to pull it off, but I guess that’s just not me. I couldn’t get past the feeling that I’d seen it all before and didn’t like it the first time."