For starters, Descent is not The Descent, the kick-ass horror movie about demon creatures who eat a bunch of women in caves. Descent (no "the") is Rosario Dawson's latest edgy film, and it's one f**ked up film. [Note: Smart people will figure out the spoilers in this review, but I can't go this whole review with talking about the messed up stuff that happens.]
Dawson started off her career at the age of 16 with the gritty, sex-related indie film Kids, and now seems to have come full circle. Descent is about sex, but not the good kind of sex. It's about rape, and there's not one but two pretty heavy rape scenes in the film. OK, so the first rape scene, while long, isn't particularly heavy, but the second rape scene... holy shit. I sure as hell didn't see it coming, and it is one f**ked up rape scene (and those that read my reviews know I rarely use the f-word, even in its bleeped out state). Have I caught your attention yet?
We'll get back to the rape later, because I don't want to distract from the film itself. Descent is a good movie. A very good movie. A great movie? Maybe not, but it certainly is a memorable one. The film follows Dawson as a college student who meets a rather suave guy at a party. She sees through his bullshit at first, but the more he talks the more he starts to convince her. Unfortunately, she ends up a victim of date rape, and some time later her life has taken a turn for the worse. She snorts cocaine, hangs out with some unsavory people, and is stuck in a dead-end job folding clothes at some fashion store. Worst of all, she has to live every day knowing that she's been raped, and she still has to see the guy around campus.
Descent is not about the rape itself, but instead about how a young woman changes as a result. Dawson handles this character shift well, as one might expect. She has always proved her talent (with exception to Alexander, along with the rest of the actors in that disaster), and once again has picked wisely. Descent is dark and brooding, and you can see the emotions running through her even when she's not talking. I don't know if it's an Oscar worthy performance, but it's pretty close. Chad Faust also deserves recognition as the anything-but-romantic interest.
The movie itself is consistently good, and is about as disturbing as films get. What starts off as a brooding drama about a woman's salvation turns into the darkest of revenge flicks. I won't go into too much detail, but the second rape is long, brutal and beyond belief, yet completely necessary to complete the story and have a lasting impression on the audience. When I heard that Descent had received an NC-17 rating for a scene of brutal rape, I rolled my eyes, thinking the MPAA had once again censored a film due to their intolerance, but while I don't agree any quality film should get the kiss of death of an NC-17 rating, I do see why Descent ended up with one. SPOILER: Let's just say the scene involves the rapist getting raped by another dude, and the scene lasts ten minutes.
Descent is a good film with quality acting and a disturbing story. Highly recommended for anyone who wants something not-so-light.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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