One Way is kind of a tamed-down, higher-budget version of the classic
exploitation film I Spit on Your Grave, following the standard formula of "girl
gets raped, get gets brutal revenge." This is the second such film I've seen in
the past two weeks, following Straightheads, a British film in which Gillian
Anderson goes through the rape/revenge cycle. This time the victim is played by
Lauren Lee Smith, who plays a sweet, naive girl who works at an ad agency.
The film begins with a flashback - or perhaps an imaginary flashback. The
relationship of the flashback to reality is never established. Lauren Lee is a
barely pubescent child who is raped by four young thugs, and is then revenged by
an African-American in a general's uniform, who slaughters all the thugs with an
assault weapon. It's clear that the general is imaginary -some kind of a steam
valve for her internal pressure. The rest of the incident? Who knows? Was she
raped? Unclear. It comes out later in the film that she reported the rape,
including the part about the black general with an AK-47, thus earning herself a
nice long rest in a nice soft room since neither the rapists nor their
bullet-strewn bodies were ever found. Perhaps she killed them and blamed it on
the "general." Perhaps the rape never happened in the first place. Perhaps it
happened and she just fantasized the revenge.
In the film's main story, the childhood rape victim is really not the central character,
but a peripheral element. She is the platonic best friend of a go-getter in an
advertising firm who is just about to marry the boss's daughter. The boss's
catches the rape victim alone at night in the office and violates her brutally,
then leans on his future brother-in-law to give him an alibi. Torn between
loyalty to his best friend (the victim) and his entire future, the go-getter makes the
amoral choice and lies on the witness stand.
The victim goes nuts because this is the second time she's been raped without
getting any justice from the legal system. She wants revenge. First she schemes
to cause the liar to lose his job and his fiancée. Then she kidnaps her
assailant, sodomizes him with a gigantic strap-on, then kills him and lets the
liar take the fall for the murder. The film is about how all that eventually
gets sorted out.
It is not as sensationalistic as I've made it sound. Both the liar and the
victim are fleshed-out characters not just
cardboard plot devices, and there are plenty of twists and surprises at the
trial. The film is also assembled with a nice smooth linear narrative and some
sound cinematography. It's a completely competent effort in every way.
Having said that, I still can't recommend the film to you. It is much too
plot-heavy, and the plot relies on several implausible points.
(1) The police do not believe at first that the liar is the murderer. They
naturally make the correct assumption that the rape victim was after revenge.
But as the true murderer is about to be hauled off in cuffs, she receives a
completely unexpected and airtight alibi. An elderly nun, Sister Mary Plot
Device, swears that the victim/killer was with her during the entire
time-frame when the kidnapping and murder occurred. This nun just felt sorry for
the victim and decided to lie for her. Since she's an elderly nun ready to swear
to her story on the bible, the police naturally rule out the real murderer as a
suspect. This was a flagrant abuse of the normal tolerance an audience will
allow for the use of a "deus ex machina" - and it was almost literally a "deus"
in this case, since the sworn word of an elderly nun is about as close as a
scriptwriter can come to having God personally exonerate the accused.
(2) The liar's fiancée, by then an ex-fiancée, conveniently forgets an important
piece of evidence that would completely exonerate her ex. Later in the trial,
she returns at the 11th hour to say she omitted this key fact. The ol' "I was
with him/her all night long" alibi is actually used three times, and each time
the police or court officers immediately buy into it 100% and redirect the
investigation. In this one case it was true. The other two times it was perjury.
(3) The murderer splatters her former rapist's blood all over her Audi, so that
it looks like an abattoir. There is no explanation of how she could have cleaned
every trace of the DNA from her automobile.
The contrived plotting is exacerbated by the distance the script maintains
between the characters and the audience. Although the characterization has some
depth, there is no possibility for empathy with any of the characters.
* The rape victim gets away with her revenge murder, and we see her smiling and
happy at the end, riding a cab to the airport to begin a new life elsewhere, to
the strains of happy-ass Gilligan music. While we can sympathize with her
actions to some degree, even root for her revenge, we can't relate to the
cavalier, self-satisfied, even smug way in which she laughs at the law. The film
would have been better off to allow her a mixture of relief and intense regret.
* The other main character is the liar, and although he seems like a decent
human being who grows as the film progresses, we can't really empathize with him
because we have seen how he cheats on his trusting fiancée and we have seen how
he lies to protect a man he knows to be a rapist.
Overall it's too sensational to be a mainstream drama and too tame to be an