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Bob Doto [Film Festival 04.27.10] movie review news drama

Year: 2010
Directors: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Writers: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

THE SENTIMENTAL ENGINE SLAYER by Omar Rodriguez Lopez is about a young boy named Barlam whose inability to connect with the conventions of the world throws him (and us) into a morass of noisy disjunction complete with smashed crucifixes and bludgeoned cross-dressers. And yet, even though I found the film to be somewhat expectable, and by the hour mark I was checking my watch, in the end Lopez had won over me over. THE SENTIMENTAL ENGINE SLAYER is a pretty decent romp.

I have to admit, I had intended to dislike this film from start to finish. I’ve known Lopez’s work since “Lopez” was “Omar,” from the beginnings of the At the Drive In (his first “super band”) days, and have always found his stuff to be postured a great deal more than it was worthy of. Even his break out band, Mars Volta, who everyone and their mother had an orgasm over, to me, was no more than an enormous amphetimined-out rock-and-roll assault on the senses, that while being brilliant in its own right, was not the Latin/dub/multi-culti mash-up Omar and the band had wanted it to be. Mars Volta simply had nothing on Ras Michael’s reggae/dub classic insanity “Love Thy Neighbor,” and once in a while ganking an ostinato from the vaults of underground Latino/a culture does not a game-changer make.

And now comes Lopez’s first feature-length film, which fits perfectly in line with his larger catalogue of work. Loud, layered, bi-lingual, and very much trying to get the cacophonic everything-in-life-happens-simultaneously that is disenchanted youth on the psychedelic Tex-Mex border crammed into ninety-seven minutes of almost walk-out-able mayhem. But, almost as crazy as that sentence, the film actually works! Lopez has got skills as an actor, and his supporting cast does a wonderful job of holding this train wreck (and I mean that in the best sense) together. THE SENTIMENTAL ENGINE SLAYER could have easily slipped into self-indulgence within its first ten minutes, but because Lopez’s characters actually relate to gravity, are unmistakably unique, and can handle and deliver humor, the film manages to stay above water.

Key moments in the film were:

1. Anytime Barlam had to interact verbally with another character. Omar had this role down pat. Intelligent, nerdy, brash, vulnerable, disturbed.
2. The scene where Barlam, his drugged out sister Natalie, played by Tatiana Velazquez, and Barlam’s suspected doppleganger (a boy Barlam becomes obsessed with because he’s convinced he’s his bastard brother) drive out to nowhere, and the entire time you’re waiting for someone’s head to get chopped off.
3. Barlam’s final achievement in the sack, not with a woman, but with a man dressed as woman, and the fate of everyone involved. Think: slasher film.

For me, a film is “good” if by the end I find myself genuinely interested in seeing what the filmmaker does next. That’s how I felt after watching THE SENTIMENTAL ENGINE SLAYER. Lopez has an intent, and while with some of his past musical endeavors I felt that intent was heavy-handed to a fault, Lopez’s venture into feature film-dom seems to hold the space for his explorations into race/class identity well enough to intrigue me. I’m definitely curious to see where his interests will take him.

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thejamminjabber (12 years ago) Reply

You liked it better than I did, and better than Ben at Twitch Film.


Bob Doto (12 years ago) Reply

I kinda feel like Ben Twitch and I had similar responses. Hesitant to really like the film, but not a total waste of time.

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