“if you do decide that you can handle it you will be greatly rewarded with an outstanding tale; the metamorphosis of a brilliant but unremarkable girl into a powerful and tormented woman. Mary finds power in her skill and her brilliance as well as her unflinching willingness to do what must be done.” – 4/5
American Mary is an elegant story told in a harsh and gruesome light. It is a story of desperation, fear, helplessness, and above all the ability to transcend all these things with cold, calm and calculated revenge. I say transcend because this is exactly what Mary (Katharine Isabelle) does, she buries her feelings and instead seeks revenge, and she does so in a way that suggests whatever humanity may have survived has died.
This will be a difficult movie for many people to get through. If you are uncomfortable with nudity, rape, blood, body modification, and just plain old violence then I strongly recommend you not watch. But if you do decide that you can handle it you will be greatly rewarded with an outstanding tale; the metamorphosis of a brilliant but unremarkable girl into a powerful and tormented woman. Mary finds power in her skill and her brilliance as well as her unflinching willingness to do what must be done.
Mary Mason is a med student who like most med students (and graduate students in general) is struggling financially. She can’t make her bills and she can barely afford to feed herself. Place the pressures of medical school, and the pressures of family on top of that and you’d have an average grad student: over worked, underpaid and just all around feeling lost and detached from the world. Her professor Dr. Grant (David Lovgren) is a particularly arrogant and self-important jerk who in reality would never be able to hold onto his position. While it is a necessary portion of the story to move things where they need to go, Dr. Grant and later Dr. Walsh (Clay St. Thomas) are completely unbelievable as both doctors and human beings. To think that a hospital and medical school would keep these people on staff is almost laughable, and to think that they would be able to get away with things they do is absurd. Dr. Grant pulls Mary aside after a class and proceeds to berate her about her inattention, use of cell phone (it rang when she got an unexpected call) and concern over her messing her career up. The F-word is thrown around a lot, and I’d just like to say that if a professor every speaks to you this way you should most definitely find the nearest faculty or administrator and report it, don’t let them just do it.
**Some spoilers** Unable to make her bills Mary ends up applying at a strip club, even bringing in a resume to show to Billy (the owner; Antonio Cupo) at her interview, revealing her literal naivete about this world. Before the “interview” is over however one of Billy’s employees (this isn’t made quite clear) is hurt, and knowing she’s near being a surgeon asks her if she’d like to make 5 grand, essentially fixing him up and asking no questions. The long and short of it is she agrees, and the next day is contacted by a woman named Beatress (Tristan Risk) who wants to hire her for a job, and insists on calling her a doctor. Beatress is a bit disturbing when you first see her, due to all the body augmentation but you do get used to it, a fact that may make you a little uncomfortable with yourself. After this Mary is invited to a party with Dr.’s Grant and Walsh who see that she is doing better financially and assume that she must have become a prostitute in order to make the kind of money she is earning. This leads to her being drugged and raped. The remainder of the story is how she deals with this, and the transition from Mary the med student to “Bloody Mary”, the surgeon that those in the body mod world love and most everyone else is terrified of.
Katharine Isabelle, who played Ginger in another of my favorite movies Ginger Snaps, plays Mary absolutely perfectly. I will admit I am a bit biased with her as an actor, as she is one of my favorites and I find her to be quite accomplished. Here she plays Mary with a strongly detached and very cold calm. She never smiles, except a little when making a joke to herself while torturing someone, and she often seems appalled at the things she does. This duality that Katharine seamlessly brings to Mary forms the very heart of the movie, the back and forth of the bloody surgeon and the innocent woman. There are times when both personalities present themselves, as if fighting for dominance and it isn’t ever clear which will come out the winner. Mary is the cathartic release of anyone that has been hurt, wronged or wounded and day dreamed about what it would be like to get revenge.
Unfortunately, while Katharine plays Mary so well, the rest of the cast do not always live up to her example. Beatress is well played, and at times fun to listen to, but this is the lone example in the supporting cast. The rest are decent to just okay, with a few of the other body modification people, such as the sisters, doing a better job than those who share more screen time with Mary. Billy is very two dimensional despite the writers attempt to make him seem like more than a sleazy strip club owner who now essentially works for Mary. His “desire” for her and increasingly gruesome fantasies and daydreams really go nowhere and add virtually nothing to the movie. Lance (Twan Holliday) is exactly what you expect him to be, the muscle, and his longest set of dialogue is poignant and delivered about how you’d expect. Dr. Grant and Dr. Walsh are just completely unbelievable, but after the first half hour really have no more dialogue for them to muck up the movie, as it is hard to talk with your mouth sewn shut, a fact that Mary quite gleefully points out.
The ending is similar to many of the movies I’ve seen as of late, a lot of wonderful build up and character development for virtually the most disappointing way one could find to finish. The last few moments of the movie detract greatly from everything that came before, and completely unravel all the transition and character metamorphosis that Mary underwent. I really just want to ask why? Why does this happen so often? My only thought is that the writers had absolutely no idea how to conclude the story and so just went with something quick and simple, albeit bloody.
I feel I should take some time to say that I found myself completely engrossed in the movie from the very beginning. Mary captivates from the onset, and with the continued delving deeper into the rabbit hole that is her transforming life, it is virtually impossible to not be enchanted. This enchantment however may make some uncomfortable, as Mary is a deeply buried portion of the human psyche that we’d all like to forget exists. She brings to the forefront very instinctual reactions, mostly violent, but does so through the conscious and sentient portion of her mind, leaving us to wonder how any of us control these baser urges. Mary is our dark fantasies about those people that have wronged us, and it can be uncomfortable to admit even subconsciously that we have all wished we could do what she does.
Overall, American Mary had the feel and texture of a dark fairy tale. One that wanted to show us that we are all capable of falling into the depths of ourselves, and even deriving some form of satisfaction from it. In that way it is also a cautionary tale, we are all capable of horrible things under the right circumstances. A different ending and some beefed up supporting characters would have made this movie even better than it already was. – 4/5 (general).