7 Days ***
Directed by: Daniel Grou (Podz).
Writing By: Patrick Senécal based on his novel.
Starring: Claude Legault (Bruno Hamel), Rémy Girard (Hervé Mercure), Martin Dubreuil (Anthony Lemaire), Fanny Mallette (Sylvie Hamel), Rose-Marie Coallier (Jasmine Hamel), Alexandre Goyette (Boisevert).
I have always said that there is a difference between a movie that uses torture as part of its purpose, and the so called torture porn movies like Hostel, Saw and The Human Centipede. I have long since been a believer than pretty much any subject is worthy of exploration in a movie, as long as it done well, and with a purpose. That is what the so called torture porn films lack – a purpose. They do what they do, because they like to see people being tortured onscreen. Now comes a movie called 7 Days, from Quebec filmmaker Daniel Grou – who for some reason always bills himself as Podz – which puts those movies to shame. Yes, there is torture – violent, bloody torture – on display in 7 Days, but it isn’t done for giggles or shock value – but to explore the main character that is driven to do what he does.
Claude Legault stars as Bruno Hamel, a young doctor, husband and father to an 8 year old girl. He comes home from work one day tired, and just wants to go to bed. His daughter wants to drop off the invitations to her birthday party on her way to school that afternoon, but he doesn’t want to go with her – and lets her go by herself. It’s something she has done before, and he doesn’t think twice about it. This time though, his decision has tragic consequences, as his daughter is raped and murdered. It doesn’t take the police long to catch the suspect – a convicted sex offender, who will likely only get 15 to 25 years in jail for what he did. This doesn’t sit well with Bruno, who devises a scheme to break the killer out of jail, so he can dispense his own brand of justice on him. He does this with remarkable ease. The bulk of the movie is made up of the 7 days of the title – where Bruno has his man at remote house that the police cannot track down, as he slowly tortures the man who killed his daughter.
The scenes of torture in the movie are brief, but strong and bloody. Many audience members will likely have to turn away from the screen because of the harshness of the violence. But that isn’t really what Grou is interested in. What he wants to explore is what drives Bruno – a seemingly normal man - to do what he does – and the reaction of the police, the media, his wife and even the child killer. When one cop says that they shouldn’t try too hard to save the killer, after all his is pedophile, rapist and killer and is getting what he deserves, Remy Girard’s head cop says “It’s not him I’m trying to save”. The media eats this story up, as undoubtedly they would, and Bruno becomes somewhat of a hero to some, and a villain to others. His poor wife doesn’t know what to think. As the deadline nears, we wonder just how far Bruno is willing to go with his mission.
7 Days is a fascinating, slow burn of a movie. Perhaps it’s a little too slow in parts, as it seemingly tries to get all sides in at various times. I also think that Grou could have gone further in his exploration both of Bruno and the media reaction to him – the police procedural stuff is interesting, but nothing we haven’t seen before.
And yet, 7 Days is a film that haunts my memory days after seeing it, despite its flaws. It is a film that takes torture seriously, not as a joke, or a cheap way to generate thrills, but forces the audience to confront it. What the child killer did was horrible, but does that give Bruno the right to do what he does? The movie remains ambigious on the subject, right up to its brilliant final exchange between Bruno and a reporter. That is the movies strength – that it provides no easy answers, and lets the audience decide for itself.