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Thursday, December 12, 2013

MS .45 Review

The new Ms .45 poster.Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
MS .45 
1981 (re-released 2013), 80 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Abel Ferrara's Ms .45 has never been released in the United States uncut before.  Upon release in 1981, it received an X rating, but was then cut for an R rating.  Now, for the first time ever, Drafthouse Films has brought this film back to theaters in its uncut form and it is a glorious piece of low-budget filmmaking.

The film tells the story of a young mute seamstress, Thana (Zoë Lund), who is raped twice in one day, causing her to go on a killing spree, killing any man who makes sexual advances towards her.

Ms .45 is a really intense example of gritty filmmaking out of New York City.  It is reminiscent of early Scorsese films in its combination of lovingly crafted scenes of violence and compelling human drama.  Ms .45 distinguishes itself from other films of its time (particularly exploitation films) in that it doesn't present Thana as a victim and it doesn't exploit its scenes of gun violence or sexual violence.  This film shows that the sexual assaults traumatized Thana, something unprecedented for a film of its time.  Thana feels like a human largely due to Zoë Lund's powerful performance.

Lund's performance is wordless, but she packs quite a punch.  Her eyes are like a window into her soul and behind her beautiful exterior is a disturbed and sad woman who simply wants to be left alone.  

Abel Ferrara directs this film with an energy and passion that propels the film towards its violent climax.  While the budget was very low for this film, the filmmaking craft is very strong.  The film never feels sloppy even when its low budget shows.  Ferrara creates genuine tension and throws in some beautifully-placed shocks at many points during the film.

I would also like to put in this note at the end (and no, no one is paying me to say this): Drafthouse Films is a distributor that every film lover should support.  Not only have they brought some of the best films of recent years to U.S. movie screens like The Act of Killing and Bullhead, but they've also brought back fabulous gems like The Visitor (my review here) and Wake in Fright, one of the most unique thrillers from the 1970s.  Drafthouse's commitment to independent cinema is remarkable - without them, I would have never seen a gem like Ms .45.

Overall, Ms .45 is a great film.  Abel Ferrara and Zoë Lund are quite the team and the film they created here is far better than almost any other film of its kind due to its commitment to the human drama at its center and its gritty power.  The film begins its release this weekend and expands throughout the next two months.  A full release schedule can be found by clicking here.

3.5/4

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