Monday, 21 October 2013

Mulberry Street (2006) Jim Mickle

The convergence of human and rat is a rather excellent concept that occasionally pops up in genre cinema and literature, and should do more. People don't tend to like to think of themselves analogous to rodents, flea ridden agent of pestilence and biteyness isn't a common aspiration in the same way as bears or sharks or wolverines. But low bound human kind, trapped in cramped, dirty, twisted sprawl, co existing in cities with those of a whole different world, different living in almost every way, well there's something there. Mulberry Street is at its best building this impression, shot close and cluttered, all about sweat and dirt, pores and cracks and hair. A sense of place that comes less from grand establishing shots than a flow and cumulation of images. And people going about their business even as weirdness trickles in and new reports grow ever more sinister, as if not so much deliberately forcing the outside away but simply living apart. There's outright commentary here, after opening shots of rats we see the Statue of Liberty, a little later a public sculpture (one can only hope it is stainless steel) of a rat is glimpsed, the neighbourhood is being redeveloped and some white collar type smiles from posters. One character is a bedridden World War II veteran, another is returning home from her present service. It's not exactly subtle or creative but it complements the mood rather than being forced enough to spoil it. 

As is perhaps inevitable, things go a bit downhill when the excitement really kicks in. The action is shot in the fast and frenzied post 28 Days Later style, ridding the film of much in the way of actual gore or nastiness but even worse, obscuring the mutant effects to the extent that they could almost not even have been there. There are a few appropriately ratty shots and the first attack is quality fun, but in general this is rather more akin to the average infected "zombie" style. A couple of good jolts and a rather bleak tone building to a solid finale, but mostly generic. Solid performances and the tightness of it all keep things relatively compelling though, with Nick Damici deserving of credit for wresting what could have been the most generic of hero by default characters into reasonably affecting territory. So it all comes across a respectable good time, it probably won't set anyone on fire but good stuff for a slow night. 

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