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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

PAINLESS -- DVD Review by Porfle

You'd think that being unable to feel physical pain would be a blessing, but it's a curse for Henry (Joey Klein) in writer-director Jordan Horowitz' absorbing drama PAINLESS (Indican Pictures, 2017).

Henry gains our sympathy from the very start because we can see how lonely and isolated he is from society as he labors alone in his apartment, which has been converted into a makeshift research laboratory, to find a cure for his condition.

He can't allow himself any kind of relationship lest it take away precious time from his research.  We see how desperate he is by the measures he takes to purchase what he needs--selling illicit narcotics he's concocted to a small-time dealer, switching price tags on equipment at the store, pressuring his beleagured doctor (Kip Gilman) to procure forbidden drugs and even stem cells for him, etc.

Henry has suppressed his emotions for so long that they're almost as dead as his physical responses.  Fortunately, he runs into that most mythical of creatures seen only in movies--the beautiful, single woman who's currently unattached and chooses the nerdiest loner dude on the subway to practically throw herself at.

This gave me my first reservations about PAINLESS, fearing an obligatory romantic angle to the story which had done quite well without one up until then.  But it's handled well, with minimal sappiness, and is actually important to Henry's character development. Their odd "meet cute" involves her spilling scalding coffee on his hand, another instance where he can't discern how badly hurt he is.

Henry's involvement with Shani (Evalena Marie) yields one really good scene, in which their coffee shop date is interrupted by Shani's cretinous former coworker blatantly hitting on her right at their table.  I won't go into what happens, but it highlights the disadvantages of not being able to use pain in gauging how badly hurt you are.

A welcome comic aspect to Henry is the way he's learned to instantly diagnose the source of anyone else's pain--he's a Sherlock Holmes of medical deduction. This lends a bit of lightheartedness to what is basically a sober, melancholy drama that invites us to share Henry's emotional pain and desperate yearning to heal himself.

While Henry's goodhearted doctor tries to help him, a shady research scientist named Andrews (Pascal Yen-Pfister) lures him into a dicey experiment that could benefit both of them.  Andrews, it turns out, has the opposite problem--he feels constant pain for no reason.  They're like the main characters in UNBREAKABLE, one susceptible to nothing, the other to everything.

The conflict between these characters intensifies when Andrews' true unscrupulousness is revealed and Henry starts to feel like a human guinea pig.  It forces him to question his own ruthlessness in achieving his goal, and makes him wonder if it's worth depriving himself of other forms of happiness.

It all comes to a head when Henry's true moment of truth arrives and we discover what kind of a person adversity has made out of him.  As straight, no-frills drama, PAINLESS is confidently done in all aspects, and deeply engaging. 

Tech Specs
Runtime: 82 min
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby Sr.
Country: USA
Language: English
Captions: English
Genre: Thriller

Extras: Director's commentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, trailers


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