by Kaleem Aftab
- Fokion Bogris' debut film is an elevated Greek gangster picture that takes a pop shot at toxic masculinity and homophobia
For the benefit of those (fortunate) readers who have managed to veer away from a life of crime, an amercement is a historical English legal term for a fine or damages imposed by a lord for which there is no statutory basis. They feature commonly in movies, usually when some criminal kingpin tells one of his minions that he has to come up with a wad of cash in a week or live the rest of his life without any number of his limbs. This crime drama cliché is at the heart of Amercement, a Greek caper which had its world premiere at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
The title of Fokion Bogris' debut film already tells us that droopy-eyed anti-hero Vangelis (Vagelis Evagelinos) is not going to get the job as an airport baggage handler that would allow him to leave behind his life as a small-time crook, which mostly comprises of pimping a transvestite and selling weed. Indeed, this being a movie, it isn’t long before our protagonist is mired even deeper into the dung of criminal life. His existence was much easier and more agreeable when it consisted of going to raves and taking happy drugs, before hard drugs became the norm and ruined the scene. This isn’t the first and likely won’t be the last movie to tell us that life was better in the 90s.
When his landlord tells Vangelis that the neighbours are complaining about all the junkies hanging around his apartment, our hero is forced out into the atmospheric world of red and green-lit interiors and night exteriors photographed by Yiannis Simos. Scorsese's Mean Streets is clearly a touchstone. There's even a bit of Raging Bull as Vangelis takes refuge with his sister Caterina (Maria Baloutsou) and her thug bouncer boyfriend Petros (Stathis Stamoulakatos). The plot doesn't win any marks for originality as Vangelis ends up at the mercy of Petros, while also trying to protect his sister from domestic abuse.
Where writers Bogris and Panos Tragos excel is in the way they use gangster movie cliches to take a swipe at toxic masculinity. Homophobia is tackled head-on through the wiles of transvestite prostitute Vera (transexual actress Fenia Apostolou) and a scene in which a girl challenges Vangelis with disparaging remarks about a fellow male criminal who gives blow-jobs. Additionally, the fear of emasculation is the only thing that upsets Petros, a tiger who starts whimpering as soon as his masculine mane gets pruned, most often by his girlfriend. There is a lot of humour in these moments, even when they're combined with extreme pop-violence. Also worthy of high praise is Evagelinos' confident central performance is this elevated gangster yarn that tries to rustle the features of a somewhat tired genre.
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