By Ryan McPherson
Often we will refer disparagingly to things determined to be stylish but lacking in substance. It’s easy to dismiss something as flashy, lacking anything worthwhile beneath the surface level. But what if the style is the substance? In a visual medium such as film, its easy to neglect the stylistic choices by the filmmaker as being the actual substance of the film.
A film such as “Against Blood,” literally can live and die based on the stylistic choices of the filmmaker. This might be said for all films, but “Against Blood” isn’t recreating the wheel when it comes to the plot line, so stylistic choices become crucial to success.
The story is about a pair of hired guns. One views it, like most jobs, as a way to make money. The other is anxious to get out of the business. The latter has seen too much bloodshed and is questioning the necessity of it all. As he plans his exit, the job they are hired for goes awry and he’s forced to make a choice: see things through or turn on his partner. It’s all a tried and true narrative for sure, but not something we haven’t seen before
What works specifically against “Against Blood,” is being a short film, there isn’t a lot of character development or an understanding of why they are in the situation they are in. The matter is glossed over, and we certainly receive enough information to understand the plot, but it doesn’t give us much of a chance to truly come to grips with the gravity of the matter at hand.
So why then does this film, seemingly lacking of substance succeed? In the simplest terms, its writer and director Cassidy Lackos’ stylistic choices.
The original character profiles for the leads were not slated to be Korean, however the choice to make the change was as integral, if not more so, than any other reason this film worked as well as it did. The fact the characters alternate between speaking English and Korean, gave this the feel of a true international art house film, while proving Lackos wasn’t afraid to take chances. Chances not in the selection of the characters nationality, but in the use of bilingual dialogue — which many viewers deem less accessible than an English language film. (After all, we all fear subtitles right?)
Lackos’ choices were practically spot-on everywhere else in the film as well. Many scenes of the film were set to what felt like neon lighting, giving it this difficult to explain prismatic feel. The actors chosen for the film just seemed to be the exact right piece for their part of the puzzle; each one seemed like a face needing to be in the film, but also needing to be on film. Most of all, this quite simply felt like a hip, stylish film you’d want to tell your friends about. What it might lack in traditional substance, “Against Blood” makes up tenfold in style points.