Black Market Pandemic: Tyger Tyger (2021) - Reviewed

Tyger Tyger is about three people attempting to sell stolen medication in the middle of a pandemic. Unlike some of the other pandemic related movies that have come out recently, Tyger Tyger completed filming in 2019, before the coronavirus took over our lives. In fact, its virus is never named, or really even described at all. It is used as a plot device that adds a sense of urgency and desperation to its character’s lives. Releasing it now may seem opportunistic, but this story feels more like a post-apocalyptic romance than it does an actual examination of our current political, medical and social climate. Unfortunately, while its topicality isn’t offensive or exploitative, it also isn’t used in a way that contributes depth or meaning to its paper-thin story or underdeveloped characters.

The story begins with Blake meeting Luke while stealing medicine from a pharmacy. This eventually leads to Blake and her mute friend Bobby kidnapping Luke and setting off to get the drugs to the people who could use them the most. 

That brief synopsis introduces the biggest issue with Tyger Tyger right of the bat: a total lack of believable character motivation. Why do Blake and Bobby kidnap Luke? And why does Luke almost immediately agree to help them? It takes shockingly little conversation for them to decide to trust each other. One second, Luke is furious at them. The next, he is willingly sitting in the backseat of their car as they ride to meet a contact. The majority of the movie felt that way.

The whole production comes off like weirdness for its own sake. Characters talk in bizarrely offbeat ways, there are a lot of “meaningful” close-ups and a bunch of longshots of the landscape. None of it ends up adding up to anything substantial. The story barely goes anywhere and, since it is a challenge to understand why any of the characters do much of what they do, nothing that happens truly matters.

Back to the usage of a pandemic in the plot. I assume the virus, and the fear and desperation it causes, is meant to be a metaphor for various things going on in this world. It seems to be trying to say something about the health care industry and the opioid epidemic, yet it never quite does. Besides Blake stealing the medicine to get it to those in need, there is also a bit of conversation about wearing masks. However, it is unclear what point any of this serves for Blake, Luke and Bobby. Blake and Luke are thrust together so quickly that it feels like a series of explanatory scenes were cut out. It is like they had a story idea and a couple of concepts and figured the character stuff would work itself out. It doesn’t.

Even though the dialogue ends up being largely purposeless, there are several intriguing stand-alone sequences. Their stop at the house of the guy who is supposed to take them to see a doctor has its moments. There are also some decent introductions for the strange people they encounter once their journey reaches its destination. These folks, basically at the edge of civilization, have their own ways of living and speaking. Their quirkiness is interesting at first, until it becomes apparent that there is nothing else to them. Tyger Tyger seems to have been made with a fair amount of artistic ambition, with a lot put into its look, style and tone. Those things are well done, but they are far from enough to carry a movie that acts like it has a lot to say, without ever really saying much of anything.

-Ben Pivoz