Streaming Releases: Death Waits for No Man (2017) - Reviewed

Armin Siljkovic's erotically charged neo-noir, Death Waits for No Man, is an interesting, lowkey version of a chamber thriller that examines sexual politics and psychological trauma under the pretense of a neon soaked homage to the genre.

A mysterious drifter escapes a violent encounter due to the help of an abused woman, who conscripts the stranger into assisting her with murdering her violent husband. What follows is a complex series of seductions, betrayals, and violence. Siljkovic's script immediately conjures memories of the wandering stranger motif, and the choice to place the first act inside a modern speakeasy, filled with a rogue’s gallery of personalities only further enhances the mystique. Despite an awkward synergy between the patrons of the bar, the action quickly shifts to the interior of on again off again femme fatale Lily's abode of marital discord. Here, Bradley Snedeker's Uzal is brought into the matrimonial crossfire of Lily and her repugnant husband, Sinclair. The simple setup allows the film's three leads an ample amount of breathing room to establish their characters, which play more as tarnished archetypes as the narrative progresses.

In one corner, Snedeker's wounded Uzal is a victim of opportunity. Virtually every situation in the film portrays him as a passive protagonist and while this choice initially appears uninspired, the beauty of its importance is revealed upon conclusion. Snedeker's rugged appearance is both an expected attribute and one of the story's most endearing subterfuges, playing on the audience's expectations while swapping expected sexual prowess from one persona to another. Angelique Pretorius is the standout as the possibly jilted, possibly opportunistic wife Lily. Pretorius gives a remarkable performance, demonstrating a complete understanding of the material and never allowing her character to slip into vamp territory. This is an injured, yet complicit participant whose initial survival instincts are tested by the recognition of victimization in both her chosen pawns and in the cyclical nature of her marriage; the realization of which is Death's greatest moment. 

Rounding out the central trio is Corey Rieger are the tempestuous Sinclair, July's veteran husband who is the victim to be. Rieger devours the material, diving head first into the murky subtexts of chauvinistic sexual dogma and yet, despite the film demanding it, the viewer can never truly condemn the character, if only for the vulnerabilities that are concealed within Rieger's Sound and Fury bravado. Ted Hayash's brooding cinematography has a soap opera feel that is perfectly at home in the pastel microcosm of the couple's loveless apartment. Conveniently, Pretorious' Lily is a collector of antique neon lighting displays, hilariously ushering forward a living parody of cinema's immortal obsession with the glowing medium, while simultaneously creating vivid compositions that Hayash flawlessly captures behind the dangerous game that always remains in focus.
The result is a predictable, but beautifully framed story that uses a copious amount of twists and turns to sidestep expected noir conventions in favor of a blistering dissolution of love and expectations. On the surface, Death Waits for No Man is a straightforward potboiler that ends almost exactly where it's expected to. However, aside from the journey to get there being a neo-noir laced slice of decadence, this is a beautifully presented thriller whose uncanny aesthetic and mature subject matter remain long after the credits have rolled.

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-Kyle Jonathan