Wednesday, February 03, 2010


No Paint in Bullets

I'm still waiting for the day that I'll break my duck and participate in a paintball game, especially if going back for in-camp training every year isn't enough that I'll want to wield a rifle with paint ammunition, and go around fragging peers or strangers in the opposite team. Best played with a big group of friends (or against people you dislike), this sport is picking up momentum, and specialized shops selling paintball gear have been sprouting up, giving indication of its popularity.

If only the cost of the game would go down, or if the terrain could be a little more challenging, like this one in the film Paintball, set in a fictional Redball Woods, touted as Europe's largest renegade paintball field, which would give infantry junkies a run for their money in terrain topology, with plenty of space for section movement and the application of section movement in order to organize and take out the enemy. But that's a dream playground, and as its advertisement touts, you have the power to choose whether to live or die.

The horror here, besides the fact that it's a film that failed to exploit its potential and chances, is of course for someone to have a weird sense of humour, and decided to substitute their paint ammunition, for real rounds meant to kill. Imagine the odds when all you have is a weapon firing paint, and the other party having a weapon meant to kill. Then there's this mysterious, savage player who doesn't seem to play for either side, from whom we adopt the POV from, and behind his thermal mask we see the bloody atrocities that he gets himself into when dispatching innocent players.

The story is pretty much standard, introducing us to the group of strangers who have signed up to participate in the game, and have to work together with great difficulty when they know that they're in for deep, deep trouble. It's like an amalgamation of Battle Royale and Hostel, where rich dudes sign up for something, only to find the tables turned and it's a fight for survival, with every man for himself. Their mission is to go from checkpoint to checkpoint and pick up stuff that they could use, such as bullet proof vests and a real machete, together with constant bickering as to who gets to use what.

You can't help but to apply horror film sensibilities in wondering which caricature gets to be killed how, and in what order. In fact, with their lack of unison, this is something of a given, and with characters who don't appeal, you'll just switch off automatically. The other drawback is of course the story by Mario Schoendorff being really lacklustre, with director Daniel Benmayor not being able to bring out any sense of tension or thrills, having everyting played out in a rather flat manner, despite the slight revelation toward the end which was a little to late to make any impact, coming across more like a sick joke played by Redball Woods.

The only redeeming grace that stood out from the bad acting, caricatures and weak story, is the occasional flashes of brilliance in its initial long tracking shot of pandemonium. And that had given the film a lot of promise, only to be let down right after. I was impressed by how much was going on with people running, firing, taking cover, paint ammunition flying, with the entire mayhem played out for a constantly moving camera without breaking into a cut. I had expected more, but as the body count rose, the brilliance unfortunately diminished. The money shot was at the front, and was just about the best thing in the entire film.

And the final nail that sealed the coffin shut, was the inexplicable final scene. I have no idea what gives, and it could have ended one scene before, though conventional but at least it provides the film a proper closure rather than the hokey open ended finish that just made it look plain silly. I suppose with more experience under their belts, the filmmakers would know how to bring out the best of a story, and know when to pull the plug when things go awry, rather than to prolong the misery. Strictly for paintball fans, but even then you'd rather prefer to be playing the game, than to watch a horrible horror film about it.

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