It’s not exactly fair, releasing a thriller with the title “Bloody Marie” right around Halloween. But hey, anything to trick the horror crowd into reading subtitles, right?
“Bloody Marie” is a Dutch character study, a fraught if not entirely taut melodramatic thriller about an alcoholic in a death spiral, drinking away her days and nights in Amerstadam’s red light district.
Marie (German actress Susanne Wolff) is a graphic artist who gained fame from the graphic novel “Porn for the Blind.”
Now, she dances by herself in bars, fends off the rare fan that recognizes her, mouths off at bars and drinks and drinks and drinks among the whores, pimps and druggies of Europe’s most notorious (Almost) Anything Goes District.
How bad is her drinking? The Asian immigrant who runs her local liquor store quietly suggests, “You should stop drinking,” and cuts her off. That staggers Marie. Actually, she was already staggering. But she’s enraged enough to stick her finger down her throat so she can “vomit all over your store” (in Dutch, with English subtitles).
Marie sits at her drawing board, in her ancient but comfy flat in that same red light district, and stares at the blank page. Or she ruminates and draws an idea that might capture something that happened that day, but which is going nowhere, in a narrative sense.
She has writer’s block.
But that’s not necessarily why she drinks. She lost her mother, recently. And even though she is overwhelmed with guilt about that, the guilt is over how drunk she was when her mother died. She was already lost in a bottle. It’s only gotten worse. Much worse.
Hearing “Your mother has forgiven you” from a fan is cold comfort, and no comfort at all.
Maybe, we think, she’ll realize she’s hit bottom with the whole liquor store debacle. Begging her publisher for an advance because she’s broke should do the trick. Or maybe that epiphany will come when, drunk and desperate for another drink, she trades her fancy red shoes for a bottle she sees a pimp carrying. It’s a rainy night and she’s blocks from home.
Addicts don’t plan ahead.
But she does not take stock. She takes a ladder from the courtyard and drunkenly climbs to the roof on the dark, dank night, shouting at the city, and later prising open the window of her next door neighbor to get her hands on some money. And that’s when her boozy exploits start to have consequences.
Wolff takes Marie from bleary-eyed bigmouth, ranting about toxic “masculinity” to toxic males in bars, to despair to desperately fighting to survive.
The guy she stole the money from? He was the pimp, Dagomir (Dragos Bucor) who traded for her shoes. She figures out, a little late, the downside to being hip enough to live in the red light district. Legalized or not — unsavory and deadly sex trade practices happen, and are kept out of sight.
The chaotic violence, when co-writers/director Guido van Driel and Lennert Hillege dish it out, is frenetic — a drunk’s weaving and teetering hand-held camer chase, sudden turns towards the brutal, an assault that seems to come out of nowhere — to a drunk.
We, on the other hand, have been expecting it — fearing it and fearing for her. Whatever randomness the script serves up, fleshing out Marie’s back story but never explaining her, leaving big gaps in her motivation and in the motivation of those who menace her, the picture keeps us on edge. She’s that much of a trainwreck.
What we don’t expect is a coda, after all that mayhem, that touches the heart and takes your breath away.
MPAA Rating: unrated, bloody violence, alcohol abuse, adult situations, profanity
Cast: Susanne Wolff, Dragos Bucur, Alexia Lestiboudois
Credits: Written and directed by Lennert Hillege and Guido van Driel. An Uncork’d Release.
Running time: 1:27