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You might be told by someone else that Seven Days is torture porn, so let me set the record straight from the beginning. Seven Days is only torture porn if porn leaves you feeling exhausted and numb, sad for everyone onscreen and for yourself for being part of the species that's capable of such things. Saw may make you feel that way, but it definitely isn't doing it on purpose, and not with nearly the same filmmaking skill and narrative drive.
French-Canadian director Daniel Grou sets up his grisly story with precision even from the opening scene, as the loving Hamel parents (Claude Legault and Fanny Mallette) send their eight-year-old daughter Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier) on her way to school, while stepping up to the bedroom for a quick dalliance before work. While they lay in bed, Jasmine is brutally raped and murdered, and the Hamels' sense of grief and blame isn't allayed when the police quickly locate the likely murdered, convicted sex offender Anthony Lemaire (Martin Dubreuil).
Like many Hollywood heroes before him, though, Bruno quietly plans his own revenge, breaking into an abandoned country cottage and kidnapping Lemaire to bring him there. Bruno plans to be spend the following week, until his daughter's 9th birthday, torturing and then killing Lemaire-- the purest, most savage form of revenge he can come up with. Meanwhile a police detective (Remy Girard) suffering a loss of his own struggles hard to find the torture room-- not to save Lemaire, as he explains, but to save Bruno.
Seven Days is unmistakably, unflinchingly violent-- Bruno beats, cuts and does complicated surgery on his victim, and many of the most horrific moments are shown in excruciating close-up. The practical effects work on both Lemaire's wounds and the daughter's mutilated body (nearly impossible to watch) are outstanding, fitting right in with Grou's carefully controlled direction to help make Seven Days something to admire, not just something to recoil from.
WIth its themes of revenge and ultimate goal to question how valuable that kind of revenge can really be, Seven Days isn't all that separated from the dozens of Hollywood vigilante films of the past-- but it's undoubtedly better and smarter than nearly all of them. Brave the violence and see a filmmaker in utter control of a story we thought we'd seen done too many times to appreciate all over again.
For more of our Sundance 2010 coverage, click here.