Film review: 'Paralytic'
The indie thriller "Paralytic" (screening at the 42nd Seattle International Film Festival) is, for better and worse, a page-turner of a movie that resorts to a grab bag of gimmicks to maintain its hold on the audience's attention.
In short: A small town sheriff must solve a puzzle left behind after a rogue assassin decides to take down the powerful drug cartel that betrayed him. (Watch the trailer)
On paper, "Paralytic" should be a kinetic and gripping thriller. The story bounces between three different timelines: "The Ghost" (a skilled contract killer) planning a daring job along with a team of hired specialists, "The Ghost" alone in a remote cabin executing his revenge and the sheriff's discovery of a tortured corpse inside the cabin.
The problem with having so many moving parts, however, means the storytellers are then forced to untangle the knotted mess at some point. And this is where "Paralytic" gets into trouble. Time and again, this film resorts to coincidences and vague plot drivers to pull the story out of the muddled mess of its own making. The cartel is an amorphous, poorly defined threat. Simply creating a lethal group with apparently limitless reach is a flawed story mechanism that allows for far too many plot cheats. If any character needs to be motivated, an ominous voice just calls up the character in need of motivation and makes some threat. Painting the antagonistic force in such broad strokes is just flat-out lazy.
Not helping matters are all are the aloof protagonist and his arch band of broad supporting characters. "The Ghost" is every bit as frustrating as the ill-defined Cartel: the audience never knows enough about either to truly invest in and connect with the aloof hero. He's simply a pile of "ain't he clever" moments that show off a smart character but not one the audience truly gets to know. Yes, the Ghost is really good at hunkering down and appearing to know too much about too many characters - but his motivations are thin and his character is flat. "Paralytic" just assumes the audience should and will care about the protagonist because he has the most screen time - but the film fails to offer a single compelling reason why they should care about "The Ghost" at all. And the merry band of stock thriller tropes surrounding "The Ghost" is disappointing - from the femme fatale to the amoral scientist, virtually none of the supporting characters have any depth.
For a mystery, "Paralytic" doles out just enough of its plot to keep the audience awake - but just barely. More disappointingly, the full reveal of the mystery lands with a thud. It manufactures fraudulent "thriller" energy with a tool bag of assorted plot cheats, contrived twists and irritating coincidences.
Final verdict: Despite all of its moving parts and attempts at intrigue, "Paralytic" is a forgettable thriller propped up by a stack of poor storytelling decisions.
"Paralytic" screened during the 42nd Seattle International Film Festival. This film is not yet rated and has a running time of 87 minutes.