Cinepocalypse 2017: Motorrad (2017 - dir. Vicente Amorim)

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Review by Patrick Ripoll ("Tracks of the Damned")

Motorrad opens with Hugo (Guilherme Prates), a curly haired thief on an off-road motorcycle, coming in from a desolate Brazilian countryside to a seemingly deserted garage to steal a new carburetor for his bike. The owner quickly reveals himself with a shotgun but Hugo's life is spared by the owner's daughter, Paula (Carla Salle), who even lets him leave with the part- but only leaving a brand on his hand. This sequence, played entirely without words, raises a lot of questions. Is Hugo a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a petty criminal in contemporary Brazil? Why does Paula brand his hand and let him go with the carburetor? And is it connected with later, when she runs into Hugo with his brother and friends and takes them to a remote cliff diving spot where an armored biker gang begins to murder them one by one?

Motorrad is a film much more about raising questions than giving answers. Some of the film's vagueness and mystery works in it's favor. The vicious biker gang is never explained and has a supernatural air about them. We never see their faces, we never know why they do what they do, we never find out where they come from. Likewise the haunting environments of rural Brazil are beautifully photographed and carry with them an atmosphere of menace as our characters get lost and hunted down within them.

However not all of Motorrad's vagueness works in it's favor. The characters are bland and interchangeable, too thinly sketched to even be called two-dimensional. You can't even tell them apart from their clothing because they're all dressed in similar leathers and the color is so desaturated that they're more or less identical. This becomes a greater problem during motorcycle chase scenes where four riders wearing black chase five riders wearing dark grey, especially when combined with director Vicente Amorim's "more is more" editing philosophy. Every action sequence is shot too close, from too many angles, with too many shaky Go-Pro shots, cut far too often. Early on the characters get divided from each other, but without a basic understanding of who, where, when and why, these sequences are meaningless and lack excitement.

Motorrad is much more interested in vicious brutality than motorcycle thrills and often feels like a throwback to last decade's horror films, particularly Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes. It's IMDB page claims the film is an allegory but it's wider concerns are either too local for an American audience or too thin to connect to any audiences. Foreboding baddies decapitating travelers in the wilderness, on the other hand, is a universal language.

Motorrad plays at the Music Box Theater Sunday, Nov. 5th at 9:30 PM as part of the Cinepocalypse Film Festival.

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