Review: Send a Bullet

Send a Bullet artistically but vacuously traces the roots of a country’s violent state of affairs.

Send a Bullet
Photo: City Lights Pictures

Send a Bullet, winner of the documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, artistically but vacuously traces the roots of a country’s violent state of affairs. The film begins with a simulation of a bullet shattering a person’s face through a pane of glass before moving on to specious correlations between humanity and the eating habits of frogs. A shady American businessman identified only as Mr. M describes his attempts to protect himself from criminals in São Paolo; a kidnapping victim reveals how she watched Hitchcock’s The Birds the same day her tormentors cut off her ears; government prosecutors draw links between money-laundering fronts and corrupt politico Jader Barbalho; and a cosmetic surgeon explains in expert detail how he can rebuild a human ear from cartilage taken from a person’s rib cage. Scenic overheads of São Paolo set to the tribal sounds of the country’s more popular musicians provide the stylish filler for what is a purposefully abstruse and ultimately shallow non-discourse on a country’s corruption and class warfare. Just when you’re about to give up on what a man’s frog farm could possibly have to do with, say, the 21-year-old Patricia’s kidnapping crisis, director Jason Kohn, an Errol Morris protégé, drops a shot of a frog devouring one of its kind. This vision of cannibalism as a last resort for amphibians is provided without context—desperately, almost laughably tied to the actions of São Paolo’s criminal minds, one of whom seems to multiply with the same competence as the average frog. Shunning depth for cosmetic thrills, Kohn doesn’t ask us to seriously think about Brazil’s contemporary malaise, only to groove to it.

Score: 
 Director: Jason Kohn  Distributor: City Lights Pictures  Running Time: 85 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2006  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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