WAZ

Sweden, 2006,  103 min.

director.gif (905 bytes)  Tom Shankland
 

CAST

Stellan Skarsgård - Eddie Argo
Melissa George - Helen Westcott
Selma Blair - Jean Lerner
Ashley Walters - Daniel Leone
John Sharian - Jack Corelli

 

PREMIERED in Summer 2007



SYNOPSIS

Well-worn by years of gangland brutality, veteran Detective Eddie Argo prides himself on playing by the book. However, loyalties wane as he and his new rookie partner Helen find themselves entangled in a string of violent and horrific killings that are targeting a notorious local gang - forcing Argo to revisit a case he would rather forget. In the midst of mounting terror, the calculating killer stays focused on the ultimate goal - to coerce Argo to pay for his previous mistakes and answer a final question...would you kill the one you love to save yourself from death.


Film Festivals:

Fantasy FilmFest (Germany) - July/August 2007
Edinburgh Int'l Film Festival (UK) - August 20 & 21, 2007
FrightFest (UK) - August 26, 2007
Raindance Film Festival (UK) - September 28, 2007
Dinard Festival of British Cinema (France) - October 5, 2007
Sitges International Festival of Catalonia (Spain) - October 8, 2007

 

 

Laura Smith's comments from Edinburgh Film Festival:

It’s an atmospheric, cerebral horror, a blend of "Se7en" and "Pi" that manages to be both genuinely disturbing and at times incredibly moving. Screenwriter Clive Bradley came across the algebraic equation – W delta Z or W∆Z – formulated by American population geneticist George R. Price which supposedly disproves the idea of natural altruism.

“I thought placing his theory in a heightened emotional context would provide a compelling basis for a thought-provoking thriller,” says Bradley.

From that initial premise came the story of cynical, unorthodox Detective Eddie Argo (played by Stellan), well-worn by years of gangland brutality, and his rookie partner Helen O’Mara (Melissa George), who find themselves entangled in the horrific murders of a notorious local gang – forcing Argo to revisit a case he would rather forget. The result is, as producer James Richardson comments, “a classic '70s hardboiled thriller flipped into smart 21st century scare territory”. Shankland cannily avoids any Hollywood gloss. Instead fluid, hand-held camerawork gives the film a raw, stripped-down edge, crackling with real darkness.

As the director observes, “behind the violence and sexy plot twists there is a really smart investigation into human nature. I was really excited by the way that Clive had smuggled a moving, twisted love story into a dark and dirty horror-thriller.”

Skarsgård was the filmmakers’ first choice for the role of the enigmatic detective, and there are definite echoes of his mesmerising portrayal of the Oslo cop's vertiginous descent in INSOMNIA.

“I was looking for something in complete contrast to the big blockbusters I had been spending more time on,” says the actor “and I found the WAZ script captivating and deliciously dark.”

“Making this film would have been unthinkable without Stellan,” admits Shankland, “He is an actor’s actor and the rest of the cast loved working with him. Melissa’s alternative title for the movie was Skarsky and Bitch.”

It's a riveting performance from a consistently superb actor who brings all his brooding intensity to a complex, challenging role.
 

REVIEWS:

Channel4.com:
Stellan Skarsgård and Melissa George put in stunning turns as cops caught up in a sleazy rash of slaughter connecting dark past secrets in this "Saw" by way of "Se7en" feature. Shot in a raw documentary style (by Pusher trilogy genius, Morten Soborg) with gruesome special effects (by "The Descent’s" Paul Hyett). It also features a haunting performance by Selma Blair. Tense thriller buttons get pushed to the bone-chilling edge in this shock to the system. It will stay with you long after the poignant climax.

Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall:
With his ambitious first feature, director Shankland launches himself into the industry with energy to spare. It's a little misguided, but you can't help but admire his fierce sense of style... The central premise grips us with the idea that love might be nothing more than an expression of survival--a theory tested in horrific ways. Shankland creates a startlingly edgy and kinetic visual tone with jarring camera work and machine-gun editing. He knowingly deploys every cop-movie cliche, while also indulging in genuinely unsettling torture-porn gruesomeness. And he cleverly casts a rain-drenched Belfast as the hosed-down Manhattan.

Variety:
Though it's hardly a fun night out at the movies, grungy, Gotham-set WAZ reps a mightily impressive feature debut by Brit TV helmer Tom Shankland that should put him on Tinseltown's Rolodexes. Pedal-to-the-metal combo of serial-killer crimer and blood-soaked hell-ride tips its hat to classics like "Seven" and current gorefests like "Saw," but carves its own genre identity by adding a smidgen of heart. Strong Euro flavor (in not spelling everything out) and largely fake setting (pic was mostly shot in Belfast with a non-American cast) may limit its appeal Stateside, but at a sheer technical level, WAZ distastefully delivers... All thesps are carried along by Shankland's pacey direction, aided by restless handheld photography by Danish d.p. Morten Soborg ("Pusher") and tight-as-a-drum cutting by Tim Murrell. Lugubrious score by David Julyan is a further atmosphere-builder.

Times Online:
The aspiring British director Tom Shankland's WAZ is as close as you can get to a clone of David Fincher's SEVEN without provoking the latter to sue for copyright infringement. The film boasts a preternaturally gifted killer, a dark underworld of homicidal sadism, a wide-eyed rookie detective, a cynical flatfoot, a devious master plan and a jittery title sequence that could have been remixed directly from the 1995 Brad Pitt procedural. And yet, thanks to Shankland's sure-footed direction, the film inspires affection for the original as well as admiration for this inarguably stylish knock-off.

Evening Standard:.
It is well put together, with darkly lit, close-up camerawork that seldom strays away from the faces of its leading characters, though the prolonged final killing scene isn't far short of torture porn.

IGN:
WAZ is quite the most unusual and original horror film to be made on these isles in many a year. A harrowing feature debut from writer Clive Bradley and director Tom Shankland, it avoids using the cheap and exploitative tricks of the genre, and instead presents an unflinching vision of the foul deeds that man is prepared to do to his fellow man. A violent tale of the lengths one is willing to go to for love, the shocking and violent nature of the story means that it's definitely not for the faint-hearted. Those who choose to persevere with such disturbing material however will be well rewarded... The high quality of the performances also adds to the general tension. Helen is our guide into this depraved and brutal world, and Melissa George imbues her with just the right combination of naivety and bravery to ensure the audience roots for her throughout. Similarly Selma Blair is excellent in an initially hysterical role that eventually inspires both sadness and sympathy. But WAZ is Stellan Skarsgård's film, and he dominates proceedings from start to finish. Eddie Argo is a complex and at times ambiguous character, and Skarsgård is just the right man for the role, ensuring that your opinion of the character is constantly shifting until the film's final, devastating denouement.

Den of Geek:
If you’re wondering what an actor of the magnitude and burning screen-presence of Stellan Skarsgård is doing in ‘another’ torture flick, you have your first clue: he’s giving one of the strongest and most emotionally-powerful performances of a distinguished career, and…it’s not a torture flick in the sense of "Hostel"or "Saw", but rather a treatise on the consumptive nature of evil and the redemptive power of love, couched in the commercial trappings of the moment.
 

PRODUCTION NOTES:

The film was originally titled "The Devil's Algebra" and refers to a maths equation for self-sacrifice.

Shot in Belfast, Northern Island and New York City during the spring of 2006.

Screenplay was written by Clive Bradley, who first developed the idea through a workshop at the National Film & Television School about six years ago.

From Vertigo Films:

Do you love someone enough to die for them?

A serial killer is cutting an equation into the victims’ corpses: ‘wz = Cov (w.z)...’ And loved ones of the victims, who’ve been brutally tortured, are tormented and suicidal.

When cynical, unorthodox Detective Eddie Argo learns the killer’s identity, he understands the awful truth. He is responsible for what drives the murders. And he will be the next target.

He, and someone he loves.

Do you love someone enough to die for them?
 

Designed as film noir taken to extremes thanks to startlingly grisly horror twists, WAZ is based around a mathematical equation formulated by population geneticist George R. Price disproving altruism and selflessness exists. Trying to overturn his theory, a deranged serial killer constructs worst-case scenarios where victims are given the choice to die painfully or kill the ones they love. Stellan Skarsgård and Melissa George put in stunning turns as cops caught up in a sleazy rash of slaughter connecting to dark past secrets in director Tom Shankland’s SAW by way of SE7EN. Shot raw documentary style (by PUSHER trilogy genius Morten Soborg) with gruesome special effects (by THE DESCENT's Paul Hyett). Also featuring a haunting Selma Blair, all the tense thriller buttons get pushed to the bone-chilling edge in this shock to the system. It will stay with you long after the poignant climax and the murderer’s identity is revealed.

Available on DVD