Swallowed, Special Delivery, and Employee of the Month are screening as part of the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs July 14 – August 3.
Benjamin (Cooper Koch) is moving away to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the adult entertainment industry. During their final night together, he and his best friend Dom (Jose Colon) tie one on, culminating in a surprise going away present from Dom. Unfortunately, Dom’s scheme to make a quick buck to help fund his friend’s trip turns out to be more dangerous than anticipated. Circumstances sour to the point where Benjamin and Dom are forced into ingesting illegal drugs and smuggling them across the Canada-U.S. border.
By the time Dom and Benjamin realize that the drugs are not exactly your run-of-the-mill narcotics, things have already gotten strange. Gotten…buggy.
Swallowed blends dialed down body horror into a crime thriller story. Taking place in a handful of spare locations, the film feels adequately claustrophobic as it slowly winds to a dark second half. The script is organized such that, in a sense, each half of the film is a two-hander between different pairs. Each half is distinct in terms of the dynamic between the two characters, and the actors in both cases have compelling chemistry. Mark Patton is great in a sinister supporting role.
Eun-ha (Park So-dam) works at a junkyard and moonlights as a “delivery” driver for a company whose clientele are not quite on the up-and-up. After a job goes wrong, Eun-ha finds herself protecting a child from the hands of violent criminals as they hunt her down across the city.
Special Delivery, from director Park Dae-min, will draw comparisons to the likes of Drive and Baby Driver, films which also focus on professional drivers with savant-like abilities behind the wheel. All three films are also fairly straightforward in their storytelling. Special Delivery is also straightforward in its tone. It doesn’t stray very far from the equator of standard crime film behavior, save for its brief moments of effective humor and pathos.
For all of its conventionality, Special Delivery is nevertheless entertaining. Well-paced and exciting in spurts, it makes good use of reliable tropes for an experience that flies by. And the first extended driving sequence is a wonderfully staged set piece.
Special Delivery: B
Employee of the Month
Inès (Jasmina Douieb) has worked for 17 years as a legal expert in an office with a predominantly sexist work environment. She has never received a raise and is frequently asked to do odd jobs which are outside of her job description. In large part, she is ignored by her co-workers, until a new intern (Laetitia Mampaka) is hired.
Employee of the Month starts off like a riff on The Office, with its dark-edged wry comedy and populace of inept characters. But it quickly turns into something both darker and more farcical than The Office. And this turn presents a type of dark comedy narrative that I am rarely able to buy into.
Without spoiling the turns the plot takes, let’s just say the office becomes the site of some accidental violence, which subsequently escalates. Stories like this are common comedic thriller territory, and the happenstance and illogical decision-making of it all almost always rubs me the wrong way. Questions immediately arise regarding why characters in these situations do the things necessary for the hi-jinks to heighten and for the plot to continue. One exception to the rule, Emergency, was released earlier this year, and does a sound job of establishing adequate logic and motivation for the characters’ actions.
Here, the premise comes off less novel. Veronique Jadin’s film is adequately humorous, but its increasing lunacy grows somewhat tiresome.
Employee of the Month: C+
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)