If you want to state on your Blu-ray case that your movie contains "Five stories that will mess you up 4 life" then you'd better deliver on that promise. You're setting the bar pretty high for yourself with a hyperbolic statement like that. I've gotten used to ignoring movies that pronounce themselves as being the "funniest movie of the year" and then falling flat in the humor department. But, if you feel like claiming that somehow your movie is so edgy and bizarre that it will literally mess up the way I think about life in general, then you'd better have your act together.
'Burning Palms' is a group of five short stories based in Los Angeles. Each story focuses on a number of societal taboos that are supposed to be oh-so hush-hush, when in reality we've heard a number of these stories told in a variety of ways on such "edgy" shows as 'CSI' and 'Law and Order.' Sure the network television shows don't go into as much detail, but 'Burning Palms' would like you to think it's the first movie that's ever talked about these kinds of issues, when in reality it just isn't.
There are two interesting short stories in this movie, the other three are ridiculously hokey, and may I add none of them messed up my life. The short entitled "This Little Piggy" was a tongue-in-cheek look at how a relationship and someone's sanity can go awry over the most minor of things. Here the deal breaker is a poop finger. Yes, you heard me right, a poop finger. Chad(Robert Hoffman) has a proposition for his girlfriend Ginny (Jamie Chung). It seems Chad is into some kinky stuff and wouldn't mind if Ginny inserted a digit into his exit-only section during intercourse. She obliges after much consideration, but finds out that the smell just won't come out. She slowly loses her sanity as she is unable to extract the putrid smell from her index finger. It's actually pretty funny, but mess up my life it did not.
The second episode that I found intriguing was much more serious and starred Nick Stahl as a rapist and Zoe Salanda as his victim. Only there's a twist here. After the rapist ends up leaving his wallet in his victim's home, she tracks him down and actually wants a relationship with him. Salanda's performance is far too good for this movie, but is a welcome addition to a barren wasteland of overacting. She's tragically good here as a lonely woman who needs to connect with anyone, even if that person is a sexual criminal.
The other so-called unmentionable taboos that are included are a relationship that seems too close for comfort between a father and his daughter that stars Dylan McDermott, Rosamund Pike, and Emily Meade. A gay couple who adopt a child from Africa thinking of the child as more of an accessory than an actual human being (I thought that this segment was insulting on so many levels I have no idea how anyone would find it the least bit entertaining). Finally, there's a story about a group of rambunctious rich kids who carry out deadly games while their parents are gone traveling.
'Burning Palms' clearly didn't mess me up for life like it promised, shame on them. It likes to think that it's pushing the envelope. That somewhere in there are subjects that society hasn't discussed yet, and that they're the first ones to say "Hey, look at this. We're pushing this taboo-laden envelope. Notice us! Please!" While the movie does have its moments of hilarity and downright serious performances, the rest of it is awash with blatant pandering for gasps from the audience.
'Burning Palms' was shot on RED as is noted at the end of the movie's credits. The flat digital look is in full force here.
The visuals are sharp and clear, but the colors run the gamut of vivid to dull. It's really strange how one moment the movie can look so stellar in its bright color scheme, invoking the graphic novel look they're going for, and then another moment the movie takes on almost a brownish hue without any real reason, which dulls the colors almost beyond recognition. Blacks offer a bit of depth, but far too often they end up crushing fine detail in faces and fabrics. Blacks also harbor quite a bit of noise which becomes bothersome.
This transfer is OK, but in a way, I think it may be the only thing messed up 4 life.
Just as mediocre as the video presentation is the audio presentation. 'Burning Palms' DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation is a unimpressive listening experience.
Surrounds are low even when the characters find themselves in crowded restaurants, bars, or clubs. The LFE is light even though hip-hop music blares in a club full of party-goers. Dialogue is clean, but there are times where whispers are extremely hard to hear. Much of the movie is front-centric considering the movie's talky nature.
While it does most things right, there are quite a few areas where 'Burning Palms' could have improved.
'Burning Palms' makes big promises that it just can't follow through on. There are flashes of what could have been if the movie and its stories were treated with a bit more seriousness, but in the end it just comes out as a garble of situations that the filmmakers thought would push the line of decency. Most of the movie's characters are reprehensible human beings who you wouldn't want to spend 10 minutes with, especially those creepy kids. In short, 'Burning Palms' is one to avoid.