Sweet Karma

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“Hang on: I thought revenge was sweet, not karma? Oh, well: never mind.”

After she gets word, back in their native Russia, that her sister has been killed in Toronto, Karma (Bechard) vows revenge on those responsible. This pulls her in to a seedy, dangerous world of sex trafficking, with women being lured from Eastern Europe to the West, with the promise of legitimate jobs, only to forced on arrival into working as strippers or worse, by the criminal elements who organize and run the business, with a fist of iron. As Karma stabs, shoots and bludgeons her way up the chain of command, those at the top grow increasingly restless. Initially, they think a rival gang is responsible, but the evidence eventually convinces them Karma is, indeed, a bitch,

This was better than I expected, with the obviously low budget working more for the film than against it, enhancing the ‘grindhouse’ feel that you have here – Karma is mute, which adds a definite resonance of Ms. 45 or Thriller: A Cruel Picture, though little more than that. It’s certainly not short on nudity and violence, but rarely topples over the edge into gratuitous, being largely necessary to bring out exactly how callous those are, treating the women as nothing more than slabs of meat, as in the scene where the girls “learn” pole-dancing.

After the initial death – an assault using office supplies, whose aftermath has Karma puking her guts out into a waste-paper basket – it does take a little while to get back to the nitty-gritty. There’s also a mis-step towards the end, where attention is diverted from the heroine, to an undercover cop (Tokatlidis) who is none too pleased to have his case threatened by an avenging angel. And some of the dialogue is a little too Tarantino-esque, e.g. burbling on about hockey. Well, it is Canadian, I guess.

However, the pluses generally outnumber the minutes, with some imaginative deaths, not least the pimp lured into a bathroom and offered “cocaine” by Karma. Bechard, despite her lack of dialogue, does a good job of putting across the determination she feels in pursuing her goal, and I liked the throbbing techno soundtrack which underscores proceedings. I’m also pleased to see it avoid the faux trappings of some recent genre entries, such as Machete. I was expecting something a good deal shinier, shallower and, well, shittier; instead, it’s a grubby and fairly serious look into a world which we probably would rather ignore.

Dir: Andrew Thomas Hunt
Star: Shera Bechard, John Tokatlidis, Frank J. Zupancic, Christian Bako

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