The Hangover by way of early Guy Ritchie, Black Out takes many liberties when it comes to depicting one’s ability to do literally anything while extremely drunk. On the day before his wedding, Jos (Raymond Thiry) wakes up next to a corpse, his head pounding and with no memory of what transpired the night before. The retired criminal snoops around and learns he’s been pegged as the lead perpetrator in a rigged coke deal that has the whole criminal underworld on his case. Reluctantly, he links back up with his former crew and looks to clear his name, only to find himself drawn deeper into the gangster lifestyle he left behind, much to the chagrin of his dutiful fiancée. Along the way, we’re introduced to a series of eccentric characters, some more tolerable than others, each of whom play a role in the mystery that unfolds.
That such an elaborate dilemma could occur during such an inebriated state isn’t exactly believable, but Black Out isn’t that concerned with plausibility. The world that the filmmakers have created here, filled with beefed-up versions of Dashiell Hammett roughnecks, hipster gangbangers, and effeminate mob bosses, is notable for the exhilarating way screenwriter Melle Runderkamp’s comic-book characterizations gel with Toonen’s populist aesthetic. Most noteworthy is a pair of Tarantinoesque femme fatales-cum-debt collectors who wield instruments of pain—one an ax, the other a croquet mallet—and disparage female representation in American gangster movies. Beyond that, the film’s references to other stylistic touchstones, while thematically apt, rarely carry any sort of critical inquiry, as if Toonen was more interested in homage for the sake of homage than as a means of contextualizing his worldview. The film never amounts to anything more than an ultraviolent crime-movie pastiche with classic grindhouse aspirations—an impressively elaborate overview of Toonen’s personal home-video collection.
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