Mini-Reviews Of The Disturbing Drama 'Michael' And Sort-Of-Sex-Comedy 'Boys On The Run' [Fantastic Fest 2011]

Somehow, with only two full days left at Fantastic Fest, I'd avoided movies that were about sex. That was remedied on Tuesday as I saw two films that have wildly different takes on the subject in Michael and Boys on the Run. Michael is a German film by Markus Schleinzer about a normal, down to earth guy who also keeps a young boy trapped in his basement. The Japanese film Boys on the Run is much, much more playful as it follows a sex-crazed salesman who literally must fight for the woman he loves. Both films are very solid but while one is focused and effective, the other meanders around before reaching its point. Read which is which and why both are worth your time after the jump.

Michael is a seemingly normal guy. He works at an insurance agency, owns a nice house, goes on vacation with friends and has a little boy locked in his basement. Oh, right, he's a despicable pedophile. But the genius of what director Markus Schleinzer has done with Michael is make the audience care about this terrible man. We don't sympathize, but we are utterly fascinated with the bizarre rituals he goes through in order to keep his terrible secret just that. He has advanced security in his house, sleeps with women on the side and hides the letters the nameless young boy thinks he's writing to his parents. As Michael's choices begin to catch up with him, it's both cathartic but also captivating. With a seemingly simple story, Michael digs deep into your emotions.

/Film rating: 8 out of 10

The premise of Boys on the Run suggests it has home run potential. A loser salesman, obsessed with sex and masturbating, lands the girl of his dreams only to lose her. He then has to fight a rival to win her back. At the start, that potential is realized as the film is bawdy, vulgar and really funny. There are several hilariously embarrassing scenes that suggest the movie will keep that tone. However, as director Daisuke Miura moves his film along, it loses its way, only to rediscover itself on a path not even closely suggested by the first two thirds of the movie. It almost becomes Taxi Driver. The beginning is strong, the ending is meaningful but they feel like the start and finish of two totally different movies. Fortunately, both of those movies seem to be good so Boys on the Run works. It's just not as cohesive and entertaining as it would have suggested.

/Film rating: 6.5 out of 10