Irreversible (2002)
By: Devon B. on December 7, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Accent (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). French DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 93 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Gaspar Noé
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, Albert Dupontel, Philippe Nahon
Screenplay: Gaspar Noé
Country: France
Given the way that Irreversible is structured, it would be very hard to talk about it without discussing one thing that occurs well into the movie. However, Irreversible is notorious for this occurrence, and I would be surprised if anyone didn't know what it was before they set out to watch it. Regardless, if you're curious about this movie, but don't wish to know too much, this review may contain spoilers. That being said, there ain't a lot to spoil about Irreversible.

It is without doubt that Showgirls is the worst largish budget movie of all time. There is one line in Showgirls that has always stuck with me though, but I am not going to revisit that movie in the sake of accuracy. The line had to do with the people that go to the glitzy, nudie Vegas shows versus those that hit the strip clubs, and that at least the ones who go to the cheap clubs admitted what they wanted to see. This is a very relevant idea where Irreversible is concerned.

Irreversible has a simple plot. A young woman, Monica Bellucci, is anally raped. Her partner (Dobermann himself, Vincent Cassel) and her ex-partner (Dupontel) set out to get vengeance. That's pretty much the whole story. So why is Irreversible not considered exploitive trash? Why, because the film plays backwards and the scenes were shot in one take, which leaves Irreversible as a mish-mash of Memento, Rope, and I Spit On Your Grave. Breaking that comparison down film by film, Irreversible doesn't hold up.

Despite playing in reverse chronological order, there isn't much mystery to be caught up in here. While a film like Memento left viewers wondering what was coming and what new depth the events would reveal, Irreversible is unengaging. Most people are going to know why Cassel and Dupontel are seeking revenge before sitting down to watch the film. What happened is never really in question, and when it finally does happen, the rest of the film seems like filler because everything that was going to happen already did in the first half. The backwards unfolding is left coming off like a second rate gimmick, because the plot is not developed enough to support the reverse order. I'm guessing director Gasper Noe was trying to create a film that showcased the fatalistic philosophy, the idea that events were always going to occur just as they did. Maybe the goal was for viewers to be saying, 'Oh, if only they hadn't done that, than maybe this wouldn't have happened.' The result is closer to, 'Oh, if only they hadn't filmed that, than maybe I would have 90 minutes of my life back.'

Then there are the comparisons to Rope, the best film that Irreversible takes its cues from. While there are parts of Irreversible that are somewhat impressive because of the extended takes, nothing is as accomplished as what Hitchcock did years ago simply because Irreversible uses computers to fix up things that went wrong in a particular take, or to get FX just right. I won't deny that I was impressed with some of the violence, and that those scenes were well staged, BUT I didn't say, "How did they do that?" I said "That was pretty good CGI." The manic, roving camerawork also creates many opportunities for a seamless edit, but obviously it was still hard to get such long takes right. This is most apparent when Cassel mistakenly introduces himself "Vince" instead of his character's name, and then has to cover by saying he was joking.

So then I Spit On Your Grave is the only film Irreversible can hope to compete with. Here, again, it fails. While I Spit creates a distinct divide between audiences (half thinking it's sleazy, cheap exploitation, the other half, AKA the smart people, knowing that it is a powerful work of cinema), neither side would deny it has some savage rape scenes. All three of which are more shocking and sickening than Irreversible's. In fact, once again, it's Irreversible's non-sexual violence that sticks out as shocking, and I found that violence far more disturbing than the actual rape.

If Irreversible was edited in chronological order, it might not seem so bad, and would maybe even be an okay exploitation thriller. But as is, the film comes across as a pompous take on an exploitation film, dressed up in gimmicks to placate those who won't admit to themselves they want to watch gratuitous sex and violence. The only achievements Irreversible makes are those on the technical fields, which didn't make the overall film any more interesting for me.
Video
Irreversible actually looks quite grainy for a new film, but given the amount of clean up done in some sequences, as detailed in the special features, this may be intentional. The film is often impressive to look at, but take note that it has the most flipped out camera work this side of Blair Witch, which gets annoying. There is a warning to epileptics at the film's beginning about Irreversible's strobing, which means they have a very handy excuse not to watch this excrement.
Audio
Audio is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track with optional English subtitles. The audio is clear and well mixed, unlike the film.
Extra Features
The Region 4 release has a few extras, however only one is worth taking a look at.

The Stress and Outrage features are simply roving camerawork that I'm guessing was cut from scenes of the film, soundtracked with annoying, buzzing music.

The deleted scene offers up thirty or so more seconds of pointlessness.

The original French theatrical trailer is included, as are some teasers.

The only thing of interest is a featurette on the special FX, which runs about six minutes. While there were some moments in Irreversible that I was impressed with because of the one-take thing, this featurette pretty much ruins them by explaining just how much computer work was involved. I knew there was some computer cheating, but there was even more than I expected.
The Verdict
I actually chose to review Irreversible because of how annoyed it made me when I first saw it. It is one of the most worthless pieces of crap I've ever seen, and don't forget, I've seen Showgirls. Irreversible is strictly for people that want to watch bad exploitation but don't have the guts to admit it. Or for lending to any epileptic you REALLY hate.
Movie Score
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