Landmine Goes Click (2016) Review
Landmine Goes Click is a 2016 thriller about three Americans backpacking in the country of Georgia, only to have one deadly step change everything.
Is there anything more reliable in setting up conflict in movies than a love triangle? Okay, maybe a lot more, but it sure is an easy schtick screenwriters cling to in developing stories. That’s not to say they aren’t good. In fact, the premise often makes for some good drama or even comedy in a movie about something else. Sometimes it can even be explosive. Like when one of them steps on a bomb. Literally. With Landmine Goes Click, the love triangle takes the metaphorical implications of cheating and raises the stakes. But only so far.
In the high hills of the Georgia (the country, not the state), three young people go on a hike. Daniel (Dean Geyer) and Alicia (Spencer Locke) are a couple, soon to be married. Their best friend is Chris (Sterling Knight). A happy trio, they make their way deep into the countryside, far from civilization as Daniel tells stories about the area once being a war-torn region that is filled with old armaments and such. Meanwhile, we learn a secret. Recently, Alicia and Chris, in a moment of weakness, had sex together, but both agree to keep it silent and never let it happen again.
After a night in the steep rocks and meadows, Chris wakes up to find a strange man rifling through their bags, but comes to learn he is a friend of Daniel’s. The man offers to take a few pictures of the group. While they line up, Chris puts a foot down and there is a distinct click. The friend instantly realizes what has happened and shouts for him to not move. He’s stepped on an active landmine. But it’s not just Chris that must try to survive.
Directed by Levan Bakhia, Landmine Goes Click is a film of purpose, even if that might not be the filmmaker’s intent. Disturbing, misogynistic themes are nothing new at the movies and here, what starts as a clever and surprisingly strong allegory on sexual infidelity becomes more a statement on the treatment of women, which itself could have been smart but is instead exploited and lost in thirst to be brutal rather than introspective. Choices are made with the tone, the score, and the direction that leave much of what could have been far more impactful, feeling a bit less so.
Most revenge tales teeter on an edge, keeping this side of plausible or either plunging into absurdity. With Landmine Goes Click, the plot begins with a convincing and compelling reveal that should have remained the heart of the story, with one strong character leaving the scene and disappearing for good. We are then introduced to a local hunter named Ilya (the late Kote Tolordava) who stumbles upon Chris and Alicia and offers to help them, but for a price. Playing an incredulous game of mental manipulation with them, he ends up slowly stripping and raping Alicia while Chris is forced to stand and watch.
Issues are certainly prevalent here, especially the odd, emotionally resonant musical choice played over the rape that feels romanticized, not too mention the goofiness of the Ilya character that should have been menacing but is instead cartoonish. Either way, once this long, over-extended sequences reaches its end, the film suddenly shifts ahead and switches gears, abandoning the premise of the start and putting one character on a whole new, clichéd path.
One of the larger problems is Bakhia’s far too lax control on actor improvisation, which leads to many awkward exchanges that deflate potentially powerful moments. One person exclaims, “He stepped on a landmine,” to which another replies, “Where?” With the camera also lingering way too long on several key shots, these actors adrift become all too apparent.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. When they get it right, it works well. Both Knight and Locke have some great moments, with Locke enduring a fair brunt of humiliation. In the second half, Tolordava is especially good, a man with a renewed sense of place and remorse. But others are lacking, and the hero of the story, who admittedly comes in tainted, only becomes more so and never once earns our sympathies.
Landmine Goes Click seems like it wants to bait controversy, and so it shall, but I also think there was an earnest attempt here to be more than was it appears. The highly clever setup puts its revenge energies on the wrong character (who in all respects could have been omitted from the story) and leaves us wondering what happened to the man who started it all.
Landmine Goes Click (2016)
Director: Levan Bakhia
Writers: Levan Bakhia, Adrian Colussi
Stars: Sterling Knight, Spencer Locke, Dean Geyer, Kote Tolordav
Language: English, Georgian, Russian