Streaming Releases: Revenge Becomes Art House Through Balance: Bad Day for the Cut (2017) - Reviewed

The artistry of some art house movies is found in balancing various elements: relatable humanity, un-stylized violence, and naturalistic plots. Bad Day For The Cut strikes this balance by telling a messy tale of revenge in just 99 minutes. 

Donal, a quiet, middle-aged farmer in the Irish countryside, steps into this revenge story after his mother is murdered. Though this plot isn’t new, the equal time spent on character development, messy violence, and naturally occurring black humor is. 

Indie and art house movies often lean heavily on one element over another. Too much quirky humanity leads to sappiness and overwriting. Too much graphic violence steals the scene or the entire movie. Too much humor can miscommunicate the genre as farce or satire. But equal amounts of each lead to this understated revenge tale whose plot also becomes a commentary about cycles of violence. 

Donal’s relationship to his aging mother is loving, yet not strange apart from the two still living together in a large farmhouse. He helps her when she falls, and also fixes up a camper van so she can take a trip in it. But this relationship is sometimes what freezes Donal from taking more action in everyday situations. 

But once she is killed, Donal’s confidence and wits manifest as he tracks down the murderer. The investigation leads him to a prostitution ring, to his mother’s connection to past Irish history, and to some unlikely allies. Throughout the film, Donal never becomes some crazed, instantly bad-ass soldier but instead a normal man improvising along the way. Some of that improvisation involves using some unlikely objects as modes of interrogation, which is where the black humor arrives. 

The humanity of the characters is a consistent element of the movie, never getting overshadowed by the violence or the humor. Familial relationships exist in the midst of the revenge, making the taking of a life that much more real, messy, and inhumane. Designating one character as innocent or guilty is also challenging, especially when the violence in the film breaks out in unintended directions. 

When the last bullet is fired, the combination of humanity, humor, and horror make it difficult not to think about violence itself. Past violence led to Donal’s taking of revenge, and that revenge itself would define his future. Bad Day was director Chris Baugh’s first feature, and it received nominations last year from the British Independent Film Awards and the Philadelphia Film Festival. 

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-Eric Beach