A thoroughly unpleasant trip through hell, Let Me Make You a Martyr wears its inspirations on its dirty, filthy sleeve and dares you to put up with them. Writer-directors Corey Asraf and John Swab weave a multilayered story about bad people doing bad things while uttering bad language. Lord knows this can lead to good things — witness any Quentin Tarantino movie. But Let Me Make You a Martyr lacks the artistry needed to hold you interest.
There’s a lot going on here involving drug dealers, corrupt priests, hitmen and a pair of adoptive siblings falling in love with each other. It’s nasty, grungy stuff, and characters punctuate each sentence with a barrage of “fucks.” It reminds one of the days following Pulp Fiction, where studios rushed to greenlit any gritty crime drama with colorful characters with the hopes of capturing that same spark. I shouldn’t have to remind you how that turned out: Pulp Fiction lives on while flicks like Two Days in the Valley and Things To Do In Denver While You’re Dead are at the bottom of the $5 dollar bin at Walmart.
Drew Glass (Niko Nicotera) sits in a police interrogation room and spins the tale, which involves his strung-out adoptive sister June (Sam Quartin) and their low-life criminal father (Mark Boone Junior). There’s also a hitman involved played by shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. Manson certainly strikes an interesting figure with his pale skin, thick glasses and no eyebrows, but the singer brings nothing unique to his character. Instead he adopts a Southern drawl that comes and goes and stands around wearing flannel shirts. Manson is the selling point here, his visage plastered all over the promotional material, but he’s little more than a footnote in the machinations of the film.
To be fair, Asraf and Swab have a lot more on their mind than ripping-off Tarantino. They could’ve easily unfurled a standard by-the-numbers revenge tale, but instead attempt to give their characters weight. We get insight into the fractured pasts of these damaged sons of bitches — Drew confronts a kindly seeming priest and brings up the clergyman’s pedophile “soft touch” on Drew when he was younger. When we first meet June she’s jonesing for a fix and has to barter with a scumbag skinhead to get what she wants, willing to endure his many threats and insults just so she can get high. Moments like these — unpleasant and somewhat poorly acted they may be — go a long way towards humanizing some inhuman characters. But Asraf and Swab’s script is too messy, too pointlessly vulgar, to take seriously. There’s nothing wrong with having your characters say “fuck”, but if you have them saying it constantly in one sentence after another it tends to get exhausting. It’s the Rob Zombie effect — dialogue that sounds like it was written by teenagers to shock even younger children.
The directors have a good eye for dark, bloody visuals, and no doubt if they were to worki with someone else’s better, tighter screenplay in the future they might have greater success. Let Me Make You a Martyr, however, doesn’t have a prayer.
Let Me Make You a Martyr is playing at the Fantasia International Film Festival.