Director: Nebulous State
Starring: William Timberlake, Nebulous State
Short Film Review by: Jack Cameron
Punished Liver II chronicles the exploits of Special Agent “Octopus” (previously rumoured to be dead – the rumours were wrong) as he is tasked with infiltrating the Bolivian border for one final showdown with his old friend and partner, now gone rogue, Agent Amos. Octopus is an unstoppable killing machine who will not disappoint in achieving his goal, but when it comes to Amos will he be able to end his life?
Punished Liver II is extremely enjoyable, but it is also a cut above the usual ‘80s callback-parody-exploitation-fanboy movies (term still pending) that are readily available on YouTube. The #filmmakers wear their Arnold Schwarzenegger/Metal Gear Solid influences proudly, but more importantly they understand what made these properties work: they take themselves seriously, just what they’re taking seriously happens to be very silly.
To make this work the characters and the story have to deliver the cliché-ridden, pun-tastic dialogue and the OTT plot points with the utmost conviction. There are no fourth wall breaks or deliberate mistakes in this film, it exists in a silly world but that world is still, nonetheless, real. This is a difficult balance to get right, and yet we can believe that Octopus is fully capable of breaking your neck despite constantly smoking joints and constantly sharing them with anyone he meets, friend or foe. The film is cheap but its budget is key to helping achieve this balance. We laugh as Octopus scrapes a man’s face across a log, but the sound effect is genuinely uncomfortable to listen to; the dialogue is recorded so poorly that subtitles are needed to understand what’s being said but the juxtaposition of reading the lines and seeing how they’re delivered gives an extra level of humour that wouldn’t be possible without them. Don’t be totally fooled by the cheap effects though, there is some very real technical talent here; one helicopter sequence is genuinely impressive, and while the fake celluloid scratches help to distract from poor lighting it also adds to the film’s setting of being one-step-removed from reality.
This is certainly not for everyone. While there are no fourth walls to break it does rely on the audience to have some understanding of what's being parodied and to have an affinity with the source material. However, this is a new type of cinema that is gaining some serious traction. Most recently with #Netflix’s Kung Fury, the sequel to which is, currently, #MichaelFassbender’s only up-coming project. Nostalgia is the latest hot trend, but rather than homages like Stranger Things, Punished Liver II casts itself more in the vein of the French New Wave, a movement that ripped up the cinematic rule book, did what was said could not be done and cinema has been reaping the rewards ever since.
Obviously, as was mentioned above, this has been done before and its merits will relate to the audience’s taste, but Punished Liver II delivers some good dramatic moments and some seriously funny comedic ones. But most importantly, when it could have just been all out stupidity, it understands what makes #cinema enjoyable. Parody may have a limited lifespan but it is always enjoyable to watch something that reminds you that films are not limited by what came before them and that cinema is not and should not be bound by set rules.