You wouldn't think it would be that freaking hard to attract one's potential audience when designing publicity materials for a film. What draws most viewers to a movie is the cover art. From this, they can tell the genre of the film, perhaps even how gritty or extreme it is. A catchy title that somewhat describes the film, or intrigues a viewer is another necessity. An interesting and intriguing plot synopsis or tease is crucial to those who may be able to judge a potential book for more than its cover. Sometimes, a quote from a reputable source may instill confidence in a consumer and further reinforce the genre and themes of the movie. Finally, constructing a logical, easy to read package design with correct technical specifications will instill a level of confidence in the consumer that this product isn't from some fly-by-night bullshit artist.
Alliance Motion Pictures' release of Nathan Hill's 'Tomboys' fails Marketing 101. The cover art features a mask that resembles Wolverine more than anything, with torn imagery further reinforcing this iconic character, therefore making the title also seem a little awkward and confusing. The plot recap screams of 'Lady Vengeance' rip-off more than anything, while the production tagline of "How far will they go?" is featured not once, but twice, in larger text than anything else. The audio, listed as 7.1, is 5.1 on the disc, using DTS only, with no sign of anything Dolby (let alone Dolby 7.1) aside from the compressed tracks for the commentary or extras. The only thing we really learn about the film comes from a picture of some cast members, all female, all wearing fairly revealing, body accenting outfits. It is with these facts in mind that my expectations for 'Tomboys' were lowered quite dramatically.
'Tomboys' opens with the basic plot already in action. A rapist, his head bagged and body bound, is hooked up to a cantelever system and suspended in a barn. As the girls (Candice Day as Kat, Naomi Davis as Naomi, Sash Milne as Emily, Allie Hall as Imogen, and Sarah Hill as Crystal) trickle in and congregate, they begin their torture of the bloke. But why is his head covered? Is that to be an important plot point? What are these girls willing to do in their quest for personal justice?
'Tomboys' is a really, really dumb film. Really. For eighty some-odd minutes, we have five characters (who aren't very well defined from one another, with a few being blank wild card personalities, really) who act on their impulses without ever giving a single situation or potential outcome a moment's thought, and it doesn't take long for their actions to bite them in the ass. These characters, who are apparently entirely disconnected from reality, beg to have people leave them alone when their misdeeds catch up to them. They try to hide their faces behind masks, yet openly speak their real names back and forth at each other, not code names or identifiers. They admit to murdering someone, to people who can readily finger them in court for their confessions. They don't seem to have any idea of how any legal system works. They play the victim card when they make the perps look like the innocent ones, and wonder why they're being picked on. It's really, really aggravating.
It just makes no sense. Why would anyone in a group who knows they have just kidnapped someone ask if one of their cohorts was really going to do something, as if they aren't already in deep enough shit? Not a single character in the entire film understands causality or consequence. Not one. No one pays attention to the blood and debris they leave behind, showing no concern for the forensic evidence they're linking themselves to. No one bothers to wonder if anyone saw them do anything.
It's quite interesting, really, how this film is plotted, with every single shot taking place inside the barn, the poorly lit, sado-massocist's dream barn full of implements that can be used for torture. Perhaps 'Tomboys' wants to be like the bathroom in 'Saw,', what with the scenes we see a body being stabbed, chopped on, and sawed at, what with the heavy focus on staying in one setting. But no amount of creativity in film minimalism can make up for the stupidity readily on display. When the girls apologize to each other, blaming themselves for the times the others got sexually assaulted, I had reached a breaking point, and when the requisite "you were asking for it" tirade is played, I had had enough of the film...yet had a good ten plus minutes to go.
For a film so heavily oriented on its "girl power" aspect and female heavy cast all in dominant roles, I don't even think anyone will truly adore this film. The packaging for this release comments that they've been let down by the system, but in reality, not once does anyone try to do the right thing in this film. Everyone acts so selfishly, never was there a moment's pause to try to prevent a situation turning deadly that didn't have to. There really is nothing to praise here, as this ugly, ugly film moves at such a plodding pace you'll be exhausted by the time it finishes and never look back.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Alliance Motion Pictures and Navarre Distribution Services bring 'Tomboys' to Blu-ray on a BD25 disc with no Region coding markings. The menu system for this independent release is actually quite good and modern, far beyond my expectations, and there is no pre-menu content aside from company credits. This release does not contain nor need a setup tab, as it only has one language option and no subtitles to choose from.
Have you ever taken a massive, massive .jpg or .png file, and saved it at maybe 1% of its file size using a .bmp program like Paint?
If you know what that means and what it would do, you should know that this is one ugly disc. Presented in "full 1080p" high definition in the 1.78:1 frame using an AVC MPEG-4 encode, 'Tomboys' lines up proudly next to 'Birdemic' and the animated 'Gulliver's Travels' as one of the worst looking Blu-rays on the market.
It isn't like the film has anything working in its favor to make the picture look good. The one setting is very dark for the majority of the film, which takes place at night, with no real lighting source. The camera shakes and moves and swirls like nobody's business, making the already difficult task of focusing on detail a near-impossible task. And...did I mention that this disc has more fucking artifacts than every museum on Earth combined? Nearly every single shot is riddled all to hell with compression artifacts, to the point where you see more artifact than picture, and that isn't an exaggeration. At times the picture pulses, quite literally, with these issues, strobing at the eyes painfully as blacks are invaded with other shades of blacks in blocked patterns. The blacks themselves aren't that great, as they're regularly just different shades of grey. Detail is impossible to discern, not with the extreme thickness of the compression issues. For the majority of the film, skin tones are literally indiscernible. Hair clumps to the point that it looks like it is drawn on the picture, like colored garbage bags attached to the actresses' heads. We'll not focus on the very jagged edges on chins and the one cell phone we see. Crushing, oh my goodness is there crushing.
For a short period of time, the compression issues on this disc become manageable to the point that you can actually make out what's supposed to be happening in the flick. That may be the closest thing to "praise" I'll give this pile of dog shit, and that backhanded compliment isn't enough to give a single fraction of a star for.
For as horrendous as the video is, the audio is...well, it's still crap. This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (again, not 7.1 as the packaging states) fails in most concerns. Dialogue is a nightmare to hear. Ignoring the sometimes very thick accents from the actresses, one has to strain one's senses just to understand most lines of dialogue, as they're hissed and muttered under breath regularly. It's often hollow, and is never really focused or sharp, even in the tight, intimate setting of the film, we regularly feel the audio is being said from a football field away. Bass doesn't impact anything, but it's sometimes lightly present, enough so that you'll angrily stare at your subwoofer, wondering why it's as powerful as roadkill. Range is laughably inhibited, with the tinniest high ends I've ever heard. Basically, garbage. When the score amplifies in volume for intensity, it's hard to really hear what's going on in those moments. There's also some light crackle in a couple of scenes. I started with this section at a one star score, but writing all that, I really don't see how it really could have even earned that much.
Nathan Hill's 'Tomboys' is not a pretty film, and it got released on a disc so damn ugly that it didn't even get a sympathy point. If you like your films starring characters who don't know how to act on logic, or if you like your discs looking and sounding like someone stuck a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the VCR slot again, this is a title you must own. Supplements alone cannot redeem this atrocity. Avoid this Blu-ray hate crime. If you (unlikely as it may be) see it in stores, look for a garbage bin and "accidentally" dispose of each and every copy in stock. You'll be doing the world a favor.