Dreamland review – distasteful dystopian noir

Juliette Lewis plays an unhinged diplomat’s wife and party animal in this pulpy thriller about sex-trafficking gangsters

Tripland? Or perhaps Off-Your-Nutland? Here’s the freakiest film of the year so far, a pulpy dystopian noir with a lurid sex-trafficking storyline from Canadian film-maker Bruce McDonald. It’s set in some kind of nearish future where the bad guys have gone legit and joined the establishment.

Juliette Lewis chews not just scenery but every last fixture playing the Countess, an unhinged diplomat’s wife famous for throwing parties where politicians and crime barons snort cocaine from silver platters. Dreamland is a film that goes all out to attain cult status, with some crazed inspiration here and there, but a ludicrous-to-intriguing ratio of about 80-20.

Stephen McHattie is Johnny Deadeyes, a hitman with a thin, ravaged face but gentle eyes, a wretched old sinner and a taciturn cowboy-ish figure with a hint of William Burroughs. Johnny works for hyper-violent gangster Hercules (Henry Rollins, not nearly menacing enough), who has expanded his criminal enterprise to kidnap and pimp out girls to rich men. The film’s depiction of trafficking children for sex leaves a bad taste. Hercules keeps the girls locked in a basement dressed in white nightdresses, drugged, docile and blank-faced.

Johnny attempts to rescue one of the girls, a neighbour, but it turns out she has been sold to the Countess as a bride for her brother, the Vampire (Tómas Lemarquis), a creepy bald guy who dresses in black and waggles his tongue like Hannibal Lecter in the fava-beans-and-a-nice-chianti scene.

And here’s where the film gets really silly. The Vampire is supposed to be skin-crawlingly repulsive, but actually he’s as scary as a baddie in a kids’ cartoon. Baffingly, McHattie also takes on the role of a heroin-addicted jazz trumpeter.

• Dreamland is available on digital platforms from 13 April.


Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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