Directed by: Alex Salazar
Written by: Gregory Wolk
Genre: Dark comedy
Length: 72 minutes
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A Lesson In Cruelty
To be a rich asshole must be so much fun. The things you could do or say to people. The things you could get away with. I've always been jealous of the higher class, but at least true life bung holes, with money, attempt to keep the 'appearance' of being a good person. They attempt to show the world that just because they have money, or are 'your' boss, they're still pretty cool folks. That is unless you're name is Julian Hassole. If that were the case, you would be one of the few who actually bask in the glory of being a jerk. If ever a last name was more fitting as they say.
Julian owns, and is CEO of the Hassole Bank. A large corporation he inherited from his father. Being the dink that he is, Julian never lets anyone forget it and finds pleasure in causing everyone around him pain. This man is the boss from hell and doesn't deny it. For all these reasons, when he receives an invitation for a staff hosted birthday party, for him, Julian is at first puzzled and then completely elated. This is his first 'ever' birthday party, and for his minions to be throwing it, must mean they respect him. Maybe worship would be a better term. The jokes on Julian however. This party is definitely not your typical birthday bash. The real question is this. Will Julian make it out to celebrate another?
"A Lesson In Cruelty" rings like a bell from nineteen ninety. The pacing, narrative, and jokes all scream comedy from yester-year. Ridiculous by nature, and completely over bearing, any person who loves those classic Jim Carrey films from a decade or two ago, will absolutely 'love' this little adventure. Lots of dialog play and a few visual gags, really 'are' worth a laugh or two. The outlandish personality of Julian Hassole himself is so crazy - you just have to laugh. Things are a little deceiving at first however. Writer Gregory Wolk seems to want to bring you in laughing, so when the time comes for the jokes to end, he can really nail you with some twisted shit. The not so funny truth about Julian is his relationship with his abusive father. The very relationship that shaped Julian's personality, into that of an egotistical arse-hole. The horrifying father son dynamic isn't explored in any massive way, but from what we 'do' see, it's all clear as day. Physical confrontations and hard love aside, for a father to refuse his young child a birthday party... will give you the primer you need to understand what I'm writing.
Another incredibly dark sub-plot involves the daughter of one of Julian's employees. For the first two acts of the film, you may 'think' she was added for more comic appeal. You would be dead wrong. That horrific last scene involving the daughter and the family dog... pretty much levels all the comedy before and after. I recommend for viewers to watch how this sub-plot plays out, and see how you feel at the end. It all makes perfect sense and in many ways, "A Lesson In Cruelty" as the title of the film, could be directly related to her.
A few questions I did have after watching? Without any spoilers. How does it make sense that Julian's mother was involved... the way it implies she was? The more I thought about the "how" the more my head hurt. Also. Was "the lesson" for Julian or us viewers? And finally, why was Julian and his father so buddy buddy during that final segment? Or was this simply added to lighten the mood set by the previous scene? I don't expect any answers in the comments, keeping a spoiler free review is important. Just something for other viewers to think about when the film is over, and that last laugh has passed.
I compared "A Lesson In Cruelty" to older Jim Carrey movies above, and it just so happens I'm a fan of such films. It stands to reason I that I thought this movie was pretty damn decent. I did. That darkness that lies just under the comedy, actually worked really well. Adding a slightly sinister quality to the film, once you begin to notice the changes. Or those dark under currents sucking you down. "A Lesson In Cruelty" has so much more going for it than a few cheap laughs. Give it a chance and I'm sure you'll agree. Well above average and definitely worth a watch.