Foreign Releases: Mind Cage (2017) - Reviewed

Coming out of Cambodia is the country’s first psychological thriller Mind Cage, which is similar in a number of ways to films like Cape Fear and Oldboy

It is a mildly effective and compelling feature debut from Amit Dubey that has several missteps along the way. While at times boasting impressive visuals and a strong performance from the villain, it suffers from a few pacing and editing issues and doesn’t consistently maintain the dark tone that was necessary. 

A psychiatrist deals with old beliefs and traditions when he intervenes in the practices of a traditional healer. When the healers’ world is turned upside down, he looks to do the same to the psychiatrist and his family. The film delves into some interesting issues that may seem outdated and unfamiliar for Western audiences and cultures, but are familiar and current for many audiences in Asian cinema. It addresses what happens when old beliefs and customs clash with the modernization of society and medicine. This follows the line of other films in which the villainous character is wronged in some way and seeks vengeance on the other party, seeking to destroy everything in that person’s life. There are several moments that may seem questionable to some viewers, while others may just find them disturbing. The tone is just slightly off. It’s a dark story but it shifts at times from being dark to melodramatic, almost on the level of a daytime soap opera. 

The directing and cinematography are done well. The exterior scenes look outstanding. There are several nice long tracking shots, good angles, nice color and lighting, lending to some high quality scenic shots. Alternatively, the interior scenes are a bit lacking when compared to the exterior shots. There are issues with the editing that could have been cleaned up for a crisper and more coherent story. 

The acting is a mixed bag. The whole film essentially hinges on the performances of the two main actors, the psychiatrist (Keo Ratha) and the healer (Rous Mony). Mony absolutely kills it and is a menacing presence on screen throughout the whole picture, while Ratha’s performance felt uneven. Maybe it’s because the villain is usually more interesting than the hero, but I wanted to see more screen time devoted to the villainous healer character.

There is a lot of potential here. With some tweaking, this could have gone from a good film to a great film. Still, for fans of thrillers, it’s worthy of checking out.

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