Monday, 29 July 2013


Ninety minutes can feel like a long time, especially in the company of Dr Bruno Hamel. Daniel Grou takes us on another dark and depressing journey of retribution with French thriller 7 Days. Dr Hamel (Claude Legault) lives a peaceful existence with his family, but their happy home is turned upside down when his daughter walks to school alone just so he can spend some ‘quality time’ with his wife. Hamel remains oblivious to his daughter’s disappearance until a classmate shows up at their door with her homework.

Happiness is shattered when her body is discovered, raped and murdered in a nearby field. Bruno struggles to come to terms with the loss, and the rapid capture of her killer (Martin Dubreuil) does little to ease his pain. Deep in despair, Bruno takes the law into his own hands and kidnaps the killer, promising to torture the murderer for 7 days before killing him on his daughter’s birthday. The week that follows makes for grim viewing, and Grou shows little restraint when it comes to graphic violence.

The biggest problem with 7 Days is that precious little time is given to creating a sympathetic character in Bruno. Once he starts to torture his victim 7 Days becomes an emotional vacuum devoid of heart and humanity. Perhaps Legault’s performance is to blame, he fails to convey the requisite emotion and worse still, comes on like a sulking teen for most of the movie. In his haste to pile on the vengeance and brutality, Grou forgets to create a protagonist worth rooting for, affording us little time to sympathise with this empty shell of a man.

There’s a lack of connection right from the start, and without it you’ll find yourself drifting despairingly from one torture sequence to the next. The path we walk to revenge will leave many viewers uncomfortable, and the longer Bruno toys with his victim the more he turns into the very thing he set out to destroy. Events take a terrifying turn when Bruno kidnaps the mother of one of the other victims, simply because she refuses to condone his actions on live TV. He forces the lady into taking her revenge, but by this stage any moral high ground he had has sunk beneath the surface, lost beneath the emptiness of bitterness and hurt.

It’s never a good sign when the villain of the piece evokes more sympathy than the victim, but the longer 7 Days goes on the more you’ll wish Dr Hamel would put everyone out of their misery. Had the character of Bruno been more established I might have succumbed to the ride. Having the protagonist become the antagonist is a neat twist, but the impact is lessened if there’s no emotional investment towards that character. TV show Breaking Bad is probably the finest example of good guys gone bad, because no matter what happens, you still find yourself rooting for Walter White.

The only character worthy of praise is Detective Herve Mercure (Remy Girard). The film opens with him watching his wife’s murder on CCTV, a harrowing vision that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Girard’s performance is both memorable and criminally wasted. He doesn’t get the screen time he deserves because Grou seems more interested in racking up gruesome torture sequences and male genitalia. As the story progresses Mercure is thrust into the background and any hope of a union between the weary officer and our muddled protagonist is lost in translation.

The opening scene feels pointless come the film's conclusion because any themes of connection are sidelined in favour of sledgehammers and intestines. It’s a shame because Grou certainly asks the right questions, but revelations about ever-present shades of morality are blurry to say the least. At least we find out whether vengeance is worthwhile, and in the case of 7 Days the answer is indisputably no. Despite lofty ambitions, 7 Days amounts to little more than the further adventures of torture-porn.

Drawn out, confused and ultimately pointless, 7 Days disappoints with its lack of focus and reason. Violence to counteract violence only ends in yet more violence; you don’t need to spend 90 minutes in the company of Bruno Hamel to figure that one out. AW

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