V for Vendetta (2005)

I'm always a sucker for dystopian fight-the-man parables. However this film never came close to living up to the cyberpunk intensity of its advertising images - especially Nat Portman's shaved head, the centerpiece of its marketing campaign. Instead we get warmed-over Matrix gymnastics. The flm's middle act forsakes anti-establishment concerns to insert a sexless S&M short, where a leather clad perv imprisons girl, shaves her head, tortures her, converts her to his kink. Sure, we'll give you a political message, right after we've gotten our rocks off. Natalie Portman hangs onto her Lon'on accent by the skin of her teeth for the first half hour, so she's irritating for the first half hour until she settles down and delivers some of the strong emotional confusion she's so skilled at portraying. The film is actually supremely conservative and weak-kneed before the potential of the strong images of Alan Moore's illustrations - the "V" symbol imitating the Anarchist "A"; Evie kissing the leer of the Guy Fawkes mask; the army of Vs at the end, and so forth. Portman's shaved head with its implied sexual and social severence, proves impotent. Evie remains passive in the narrative, not transformed, which, in the way of these power fantasies, would have represented a new chrysalis-shedding sexuality. She did pull the lever at set the train on its way, but that is dramatically perfunctory. V For Vendetta is so set on giving us a brand-name superhero, and so tied to a formula narrative, it couldn't effectively construct a truly anarchic narrative, or wield its ideas with any force. Christ, what a director with a sense of the impact of these images could have made of this material.

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