(tw: sexual assault, violence)
I wasn’t planning to watch this movie but a friend invoked the words “unwatcheable” and “unable to sit through” so of course I had to do it.
A Polish woman gets kidnapped by an Italian mob boss because he’s been lookin for her for years after he saw her randomly dancing on a beach and gives her 365 days to fall in love with him.
State of mind
As far as I’m aware, this Spawn is based on a bookseries that was heavily influenced by Fifty Shades of Grey.
I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about my fascination with romance/erotica on this blog, but know that I don’t hold any superiority complex over the genre. I’m an ace person, sure, but I love stories. That includes stories about concepts that may be a bit foreign to me. In any case, in my opinion, romance stories aren’t as much a realistic portrayal of healthy relationships, but a form of entertainment centered around conflicts between two or more characters who are involved with each other. And by god, do I love me some fictional petty conflicts. If it’s done right, that is.
The difficulty with a lot of romance stories is that a lot of people will just take what is given at face value. That’s how you get all the “this dynamic is actually super gross and problematic because A lied to B” and such discourse. Though deception and conflict are unwelcome guests in actual real life relationships, most people do recognize the difference between real life and fiction. The difference being that you can’t close the window on real life if it gets too overwhelming. The appeal of the romance genre is that you do know how it ends. And even if the story goes somewhere you’re uncomfortable with, you can just… stop reading or watching.
That being said, I don’t mean to say that the genre has an “anything goes” pass. After all, it is a genre that generally relies on the reader relating in some shape or form to one or more of the characters, or the conflict. Conflicts in relationships can quickly veer into very sensitive topics, such as abuse, assault, etc. which puts a romance writer in the difficult position to make the drama in their story walk the thin line between “being impactfull enough that it doesn’t come across as petty” and “actual criminal and abusive behaviour.” Now, even the latter can be somewhat titillating if it’s handled with the needed gravitas. Fantasies can be a little bit spicy, but whether or not it enters harmful territory all depends on how actions are framed within the story narrative.
That’s where Fifty Shades of Grey failed as a story. It framed the BDSM Christian wanted to partake in as the Problem to overcome rather than Christian’s actual abusive behavior, not to mention that none of his abusive tendencies had any real resolve by the end. So the controlling of Anastasia’s work place, her cars, her finances, her phone, etc… that never really is treated with the appropriate gravitas.
Since this movie is based on novels influenced by Fifty Shades of Grey, it hits that same speed bump… times 11.
Okay, okay, maybe I should lead with some positives, before I go on my rant; which I’m going to phrase as “they did this better than 50 shades, of grey”, because…. Because.
1. The casting is infinitely better. Massimo actually looks domineering and intimidating as opposed to Christian Grey who, let’s be honest, looked like he was constantly on the verge of crying. I’m putting this as a positive, but it doesn’t necessarily work in the movie’s favor.
2. At least they went full nudity unlike some cowards.
I tried to explain my main gripes with this movie as concise as possible, but I keep ending up recapping the entire movie because all the bad things lead into more bad things. I tried to seperate te recap into different potpoints, but honestly and succeeded only barely. It’s all ver muddled. So I hope you enjoy this wall of text.
1. Setup/Plot point #1
Essentially, Laura is on holiday in Sicily with her boyfriend and friends to celebrate her birthday. After getting into a fight with him she goes out by herself and eventually gets kidnapped by a member of the mob.
She wakes up in this castle, and while trying to find a way out she bumps into Massimo, the main guy, and the head of the mob. It has to be said that in a movie like this, some manhandling is to be expected, but he’s, like… violent. He throws her into chairs, twists her arm behind her back and slams her face first into the brick wall, etc.
The reason he’s kidnapped her is that, years ago, he saw her frolicking on a beach and he kind of got obsessed with finding her. It’s some kind of motivation, I suppose. He says that if she doesn’t fall in love with him in 365 days he’ll release her, and he won’t touch her until she wants him to… He says this while he’s groping her, so do with that information what you will.
I’m relaying all this to hit home that this isn’t like a soft, gentle, meet cute, okay. It’s violent, he keeps saying he’s used to get his way, he can’t be gentle, and he won’t tie her up unless he has to. Essentially he has all of the power in the situation. Yes, he says he won’t do anything as he’s assaulting her already. Laura is shown to be in distress (the actress is very… minimalistic in her performance but this is what I took away from this scene). So naturally, her priority would be to get out of this situation, right? Well she does make an attempt, but fails because her deus ex heart condition kicks in when she stumbles upon Massimo executing a man and she faints. When she wakes up, Massumo is there. This happens.
It should be said that during all of this she is acting very tsundere. As in she keeps demanding stuff from him and sassing him as if she hasn’t just seen him execute a man.
And this is her the next scene.
2. The Midpoint/Plot point #2
That’s the main problem in this movie. We’re being shown that Massimo is a violent person who doesn’t keep his word and “gets what he wants”, we’re shown that Laura gets thrown around and basically gets threatened with assault if she pushes back, we’re shown that Massimo is capable of killing a person. So the confidence that Laura displays is beyond odd. The entire movie she is more annoyed than scared for her well being, as if to try and make it seem like she is a strong, independent woman, who stands up for herself. The thing is though, that even the strongest, most independent woman will react to a life threathening situation with fear. Fear isn’t something exclusive to weak willed individuals.
To add to that, everytime Massimo says “we’re doing this”, and she cocks her head, flips her hair and lifts her chin defiantly and says “no”, the scene following is alway her being strong armed into doing what Massimo wanted. He says they need to pick up appropriate clothing for her, she says that she’s not going anywhere, and he grabs her arm and drags her along. On the shopping trip, when he comes into her fitting room while she’s trying on lingerie, and she says he has to leave, he grabs her neck, pushes her up against the wall and says that since it’s his money she’s spending, he’ll do whatever he pleases. And yet her reactions never really evolve beyond annoyance. I’m prepared to suspend my disbelief, but this doesn’t make any emotional sense, which I do think is important for an emotion driven plot. There needs to be at least some part of the viewer that relates to the thought process of the heroin.
Laura does try to escape. She runs up to a couple of police officers but it becomes clear that Massimo has bought the police so nothing comes of it. She demands for her laptop and phone as if she’s not totally powerless in the situation and walks off with a smirk. What the hell she’s so smug about? I don’t know.
Back at the castle, Laura dolls herself up to go to dinner. Dress, make-up, hair, the whole shebang. Before she leaves her room she smirks at her reflection. What she’s so smug about? I don’t know.
They have some surface level small talk and he asks her to teach him to be gentle. I’m sure this was supposed to be a character break through or something, but he really needs to have someone else teach him how not to grab women by the throat when they mildly annoy them? Weird. This also never comes up again.
It’s around this time that I realize that this movie would’ve been way better if Laura and Massimo established a dom-sub relationship, in which Laura would obviously be the dom, as she clearly thrives on acting like one and Massimo would be taught to relinquish control in a controlled environment. Unfortunately that’s not what this story is, so we just get Laura smirking and Massimo grabbing by the throat.
Laura doesn’t really respond to his request. We just cut to her getting back to her room and seeing her laptop and phone sitting on the bed. And just like that she decides to not alert any authorities but to phone her mom, saying she’s been offered a job in Sicily and will be there for the next year. Why? I. don’t. know. There has been no reason for her to want to stay so…
She wakes up with Massimo sleeping next to her. She’s not reacting nearly as creeped out as she should be, seeing as this man has on multiple occasions said he takes what he wants by force if he needs to and there has been no reason for her to believe otherwise. Instead she just goes to casually shower in the GIANT-ASS shower that’s in her room.
This is where it also dawned on me what irritated me about this actress in particular. She’s a walking, talking instagram post. The camera seems too focussed on getting her at her right angles, she angles her face like she’s posing, she walks like she’s modelling. And this is not to say that a woman isn’t allowed to be confident in her skin, but again, it doesn’t fit the context she’s in. It gives everything she does a very superficial and fake aura. I was suddenly reminded of that Batman and Catwoman skin swap video that went viral a couple years ago.
Anyway, Massumo joins her and she cock teases him, after which he grabs her by the neck again and drives home again that he’s used to “get what he wants” and that she “should not provoke him”, and she cocks her head and goes “or what?”. Again, as if he hasn’t been throwing her around. As if she hasn’t seen him shoot a man point blanc.
She responds to this non consential groping by stomping off when the plane lands and throwing a hissy fit before immediately going with him again.
So, now they’re in Rome. She keeps acting seductive in front of him for… some reason. She services an ice cream and “bathes” in a fountain. I don’t… I don’t know, okay. I don’t know or understand her thought process.
And then, in a baffling jump of logic, even with the adjuststed standards I had for this movie at this point, she… goes to his room. For what? I don’t know. It is played completely straight. When I first saw this scene, I thought that maybe she was going to have sex with Massumo just to get it over with and so he’ll be less persistent in the future. But then it turns out she goes to him just to cock tease him again.
Shock and horror, when she wants to leave his room after scoffing at her literal, actual mob kidnapper, she finds that she’s locked in with him. Who would’ve thunk. He forces her on the bed and restrains her with cuffs.
She recoils, she struggles, she protests verbally. See, this is where the fantasy completely dies. I’m assuming the fantasy is being manhandled, being coerced into a secret desire or something. In these kind of romance plots, there is always at least some kind of tell that the heroin is secretly into being dominated or that she has the agency to stop. Here, there is no such thing. Laura is completely at Massimo’s mercy, she has zero power to get out of her situation. No matter her misguided teasing before, in this moment, Laura has shown absolutely no sign that she actually wants to have sex with him. That Massumo wasn’t planning to is irrelevant. The moment Laura doesn’t have any agency left, this has stopped being an innocent fantasy, in my eyes, and evolved into a harmful depiction of a man’s power over a woman.
Massumo doesn’t assault her, though. Instead he brings out another woman to “show [Laura] what she’s been missing”. Except this idiot really thinks that his dick is God’s gift on this green Earth or something because instead of pleasuring this woman and therefore showing Laura that she could be feeling that kind of pleasure if she just said “yes”, he brings out this woman to give him a blowjob… showing her the missed opportunity of a jaw cramp or something, I don’t know. I’m not going to argue on whether or not women can be more into giving sex acts than be on the receiving end but, come on, dude… this was like your audition for her.
But he doesn’t assault her, so it’s all okay.
So, after all that, she still chooses to rather tease him than have an ounce of self preservation. They go to one of his clubs for “business”, and she “provokes” him because her dress is too short. (I don’t feel like it’s even that short? It’s a cute clubbing dress)
Listen, you should never victim blame. But this is a fictional story so I only feel half bad doing it. I’m having a very hard time feeling sympathetic towards Laura. Everytime her throat gets grabbed at this point I’m like “How are you shocked that the guy who has been violent and volatile this entire time whenever he doesn’t get his way would act violent and volatile whenever he doesn’t get his way?”
She starts flirting with a random guys to piss Massimo off. On of these gets too persistent with her but he’s not attractive so this time it’s actually portrayed as harrasment. Massimo shoots the guy. The only way out of the situation, clearly.
Hard cut to them being on a yaght.
Laura and Massimo fight and this ends up with Laura toppling overboard into the ocean. Remember her heart condition that I mentionned way earlier, when she fainted from seeing the guy being executed? Yea, it would’ve made sense if that came back into play here, wouldn’t it? It sure would have. Actually come to think of it,where was her heart at at literally every physical conflict they’ve had.
Anyway, Massimo saves her and she faints. After she wakes up she randomly wants to have sex with him now. I don’t know. What follows is a 5 minute long soft core porn scene. It was well shot, so there’s that, I guess? And for the people that watched the movie just for the sex stuff, I’m guessing they got what they came for. But, it’s been like, over an hour, so… I mean, I’m here because I’m stubborn and refuse to admit defeat, but I don’t know who could sit through and hour of this mess just to see these two have sex.
That all being said, this is the only soundtrack placement that makes sense. All the other soundtracks were just really odd and weirdly intense for, for example, a shopping montage.
Anyway, at one point I had a laughing fit because I suddenly remembered that this post exists
Yes, her heart condition is on vacation during all this as well.
So, now that the sex is over and done with, we have our next conflict. Massumo’s taking Laura to a masked ball.
Naturally this is solved by another montage, a make over one this time. I’m not even going to touch that the stylists are two flamboyantly gay men because, honestly, my standards for this movie are so low, the homophobia is just a footnote in all the shenanigans.
Anyway, the ball.
Nothing of consequence happens. Except for one thing
And also the world’s most boring tango and Massumo’s ex shows up and threatens Laura’s life. A bold plot thread to introduce out of nowhere *checks watch* an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie.
3. Plotpoint #3
To protect Laura, Massumo sends Laura back to Poland
Laura is put in a deluxe appartment and finally reunites with her best friend. And finally we get to know what the hell Laura sees in Massumo.
Kennie, I’m so sorry, but I’m going to need to borrow your face to react to this
We get introduced to another conflict in this movie: according to Laura, she and Massumo can’t marry because it’s against Sicilian custom to take foreigners as partners. This is the first time this has come up so I don’t know where she gets this from.
Laura has a mini breakdown because she isn’t in the know about anything happening in Sicily and Olga (her friend) knows the solution to get her out of that downwards spiral.
Another fucking make over montage.
So Laura gets the most ugly blonde bob wig I have ever seen that the movie directors try to pass off as her real hair and they go out clubbing. Does this matter? Not really, I just wanted to mention the ugly wig.
Also , and I just realized this as i’m watching the movie again, there is no indication of time that has gone by. Laura runs into her ex boyfriend (the one who cheated) and he asks where’s she’s been all this time and my first thought was “relax, it’s been like a week or something.” But then I realized that it might as well have been months. You’d think that a movie wherein the days are rather important to the plot would draw more attention to the time passing, but why am I expecting anything at this point.
Anyway she goes back to her appartment and Massumo’s there. And now we’re at the the point where I just got pissed. They have sex again and Laura starts to take off his shirt and sees the scar from his gunshot wound… on his right pec…
Let’s go on a trip through memory lane
Couldn’t even get… the gun shot continuity right… Literally the least they could’ve done. The easiest thing to fix. These people blew all their budget on clothes, locations and soundtracks and forgot to hire people that could keep track of this. I’m just so annoyed. Tonal inconsistency? Fine. Script writing isn’t an easy thing to do and mistakes are made. Bad acting? Honestly they looked pretty the whole movie and isn’t that kind of the point. But this? This is just neglect.
Also, how is this the first time Laura sees his chest? They’ve been heaving sex for eons, or at least that’s what it feels like.
They get engaged and you know what that means!
(there are yoo many montages in this damn movie, in case you hadn’t noticed)
But before we see them getting married, we see another random couple get married and at that ceremony Massimo meets Laura’s parents. No idea what this scene was for, because we never see them again.
Sigh. We are slowly crawling towards the finish line of this movie. Notice thtat nothing that resembles a climax is in the works less than 15 before the end credits will roll.
Laura is pregnant, Massumo doesn’t now and she and Olga are going wedding dress shopping. And behold! I finally see something I’m intrigued by!
They get into their car to go back to Massumo, someone calls Mario that someone intends to kill Laura, he hurries to Massumo, but it’s too late. Laura’s car enter a tunnel and the care doesn’t come out of the other side.
That’s it. That’s the end of the movie.
I think I made most of my points. It was a hot booboo mess.
If you somehow read through all of this, thank you.