Breaking Nikki (2009)
By: Captain Red Eye on November 27, 2009  | 
Salvation (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 87 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Hernán Findling
Starring: Maria Ines Alonso, Oliver Kolker, Veronica Mari
Screenplay: Hernán Findling
Country: Argentina
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Debonair businessman Devon (Oliver Kolker) is one sick puppy. Having more than a little difficulty letting go of his ex-wife Susan (Veronica Mari), he decides the most practical course would be to wait until she comes over to get some legal documents signed, clock her over the head then keep her caged like a dog in his basement. With the aid of his simpleton brother David (Maxime Segue), Devon then goes about enacting 'the Susan game', which entails hiring a prostitute with a passing resemblance to play the role of his ex for the night.

Thus it is that Nikki (Maria Alonso) arrives on his door. A brazen strumpet who's more than game for a lark, Nikki quickly displeases the sadistic Devon with her paltry role-playing skills and penchant for pillow talk, and when she defiantly refuses to submit any further things turn decidedly nasty.

Utilising sleep deprivation, cold water immersion and home movies strictly from the Clockwork Orange school of audiovisuals, the dastardly fellow tries everything within his power to dominate the saucy minx and make her answer to the name Susan, in between haranguing her with some truly psychotic attempts at dinner conversion. Meanwhile the real Susan attempts to charm the dullard brother into letting her go, licking the fingers he pokes through a hole in her metal enclosure and even going so far as to pretend to enjoy the unidentifiable slop he spoons into her mouth every few days.

Fledgling Argentinean auteur Hernan Findling has succeeded in creating a confronting and effective psychological thriller. Granted things get a bit zany in the final third, but for the most part the pacing and editing are deftly handled and much of the imagery is remarkably haunting. A lot of this revolves around Devon's reticent sibling, who reluctantly ignores the remnants of his own compassion in deference to his forceful and thoroughly demented older brother. Though expressing sympathy with Susan's plight, David cleans the lining of her pen as though she were little more than a rodent, stands by silently as the hapless Nikki is verbally and physically abused, crouches behind the handcuffed woman at the dinner table and stuffs food into her mouth as if his hands were her own. As all this is going on Devon prattles unrelentingly to 'Susan' about this or that aspect of their past, giving every impression of being an attentive and devoted husband, except for the glaring fact that he's a complete and utter nutbag.

With the exception of one or two scenes, the entire film takes place inside Devon's house and consists solely of interaction between the four protagonists. Each of the leads has been well chosen, and despite a dearth of film experience between them and the occasional flatly-rendered line all put in solid and believable performances. Kolker effectively conveys a sense of unrelenting menace and seems to immerse himself in the role of sadistic psychopath, while the beautiful Veronica Mari somehow manages to make licking spoonfuls of slop off a metal grating sexy. Alonso does well in the pivotal role as the seemingly indomitable Nikki, and Segue does the Igor bit effectively also, creating an identifiable character and injecting some small semblance of humanity into the decidedly dark proceedings.

All in all this is an enjoyable outing from Findling, and one that throws up more than a few surprises along the way. Whether or not they always work is another matter, but at any rate the Argentine deserves full marks for effort.
Shot in hi-def, clarity and resolution are nice and consistent throughout.
An English 2.0. The score is somewhat spartan but surprisingly melodious, and overall the audio mix is clear and serviceable. Besides which the repeated blows Nikki takes to the face don't really need to be rendered in surround.
Extra Features
Theatrical trailers for this and four other redemption titles, a stills gallery and a 17-minute behind-the-scenes featurette which contains interviews, rehearsal footage and an insight into the makeup and special effects.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Though losing focus and perhaps not wholly successful in tying up all its psychological twists and turns, the first hour of this film is nonetheless amongst the most engrossing I've seen in a long time. The performances are strong and the central themes of madness, confinement and submission are convincingly rendered. All in all a powerful, ambitious and engaging psychological thriller, the strengths of which amply compensate for its flaws

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