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Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Hanger (2009)

It would seem that director Ryan Nicholson is on a mission to be crowned the undisputed king of trash exploitation cinema.  His perverse and audacious offerings make the work of Troma and other like-minded miscreants look almost wholesome, in fact.  His vile visions have a way of getting under your skin like an acute cancer you learn to accept, knowing the discomfort will thankfully only be temporary.  Nicholson obviously has his tongue deeply in cheek when he's dredging ideas from the bottom of the cesspool and this approach has made his past efforts unpredictably entertaining.  Unfortunately with Hanger the attempts at humor are far too juvenile and forced to have any impact, therefore it just kind of wallows in its own stale odors.

The idea is pretty simple and pretty repugnant.  A pregnant hooker is given a coat-hanger abortion by her pimp and she dies in the process.  Her baby's body is discarded into a trash bin and later discovered, still alive, by a homeless man who raises him.  One of the hooker's regular "johns" is convinced he's the father and inexplicably comes to collect the now affectionately named 'Hanger' off the streets on his 18th birthday.  He's offered a job, a chance at stability - and probably most appealing of all - an opportunity for revenge.  "Payback's a bitch of a whore", as the tagline boldly emphasizes.

The film is populated with absolutely deplorable characters.  After the extremely graphic abortion sequence administered by the pimp Leroy ("come to papa you little bastard!"), we flash forward 18 years to where "The John" finds Hanger and takes him under his wing.  He attempts to get the lad laid, but this only results in a repulsed prostitute getting her head crushed in by a car door ("who's the freak-show now, bitch!") and then they bond over their shared bloodlust.  Hanger's then given a job at a waste recycling plant where he meets Russell and Phil, who share some alarming disfigurements (and preoccupations) of their own.  Key players aside, we also have Leroy's charming harem of whores Foxy White, Smashy and Trashy (the latter actually uses her unkept vagina as an instrument of torture at one point); a voyeuristic foreman; his overly stimulated daughter, who can't keep her fingers (or her ball-point pen) away from herself during work hours; and a plethora of other assorted skanks and low-lifes to nicely color up the background.

There's gore, shit, some gratuitous nudity and on-screen masturbation, laughably inappropriate stereotypes, streaks of misogyny, plenty of bad racist jokes, a pedophiliac Santa Claus and a roofie-spiked pizza, tampon tea, breast-milk, breast-biting, flame-throwing, stoma-fucking, a microwaved dog, cameos by Lloyd Kaufman and Debbie Rochon and some Class Of Nuke 'Em High footage.  All strung along by some of the most unpolitically correct dialogue and situations to ever escape a film lab.

Now admittedly on the surface that might sound like good times; however, by the conclusion you can't help but feel that Hanger is a little too desperate in wanting to shock and offend.  All the characters are very thinly etched and completely unlikable.  The dialogue is very hit and miss with most of the jokes a good many rungs below sophomoric, often falling flat under the weight of wretchedness transpiring.  It does have some crazy set-pieces and a nice bit of eye candy that helps digestion, but the entire affair comes off as more obnoxious than anything.

I certainly applaud Nicholson for making the kinds of films he wants to make, don't get me wrong.  They've all been fearless celebrations of bad-taste and that's usually my kind of party.  But Hanger just seems to try too hard for its own good.  I look forward to the next amoral atrocity Nicholson brings to the screen, he's won me over as a film-maker to watch, but I suppose even I must set my standards a bit high on occasion.  I do a lot of things high, actually, but I digress.  Imaginative and outrageous though it may be, ultimately Hanger suffered from one major hiccup I couldn't ever get past no matter what my state of mind - general stupidity.

and the awards go to:
*  Dan Ellis as "The John" who confides to Hanger in a moment of reflection "I thought I felt you kickin' on my dick one time and it gave me the willies, thought it best to leave it alone" - referring to his dead mother's money-slot
*  Ronald Patrick Thompson as Leroy the Pimp who recalls to Rose "you wore this (dress) the first night I turned you out" before assaulting her and her unborn baby with a clothes hanger; then later asks The John "you ever heard of a Dirty Sanchez, motherfucker? Well this is a Dirty Leroy! This bitch ain't douched for days!" before letting Trashy share some of herself with him.
*  Candice Lewald as naughty Nicole, the foreman's daughter, who strips down twice for some self-lovin' and when hearing someone peeping in on her through the window inquires, "Daddy, is that you again?"
*  Ryan Nicholson, because at the very least he's composed one of the sleaziest and most bizarre films I've seen in some time.  That alone might make it a minor masterpiece to some, what the hell do I know?

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