A young man called Andrew is forced to endure a bitter encounter with a man known as the Cameraman, who enjoys filming beatings, murders and rapes in an abandoned underpass.
If I say the name Gareth Evans, you are no doubt immediately thinking about The Raid: Redemption, or maybe The Raid 2, or maybe that segment of V/H/S 2, “Safe Haven,” with the cult and the ritual suicide and all that crazy doomsday, end of times stuff at the end. However, back in 2006, a full five years before The Raid: Redemption ever blew your mind, Evans was appearing on the scene as writer/director/producer of his very first movie, Footsteps (a.k.a. Vengeance Day, which is maybe a more fitting title, but one that also might inadvertently bring to mind a low-rent knock off of an old Charles Bronson movie with a super cheesy VHS cover). Using our 20-20 hindsight, we can say that Footsteps does indeed hint at what is still to come from this director, but as a stand-alone feature, this one stumbles a bit and leaves the audience wanting more.
Andrew (played by Nicholas Bool) has had a tough go of it, or at least I think he does, anyway. We see him working a dull, monotonous job, visiting a guy in a hospital, losing his girlfriend, Sera, (Emma Powell) only to run into her at a club with another guy, and just generally failing at everything up to the point of giving up. But we never really get the full story, and already the style of the film – cutting back and forth from different scenes, little to no dialogue, dark and dreary – is looking good but remaining too vague on the details we as the viewing audience needs to feel for this guy. After puking and then brawling some dudes at a club, he sits outside; he’s tired, he’s bloody, and he’s a perfect target. Along comes a guy with a camera (The Cameraman, played by Jared Morgan) and another young ruffian.
The guy hits Andrew a few times with a steel pipe, then drops it and runs, all of it being filmed by the third fellow. And this is where our story centers, as Andrew, rather than being beaten on camera like so many other homeless and drug-addicted folks have been in the name of entertainment, instead joins up with this shadier, Fight Club-like group.
A big chunk of the middle of Footsteps deals with Andrew’s assimilation into this shadowy group, a handful of people who seem to be in the drug game as well as maybe a snuff film trade. Paul (Mads Koudal) is tasked with showing Andrew the ropes, and so we follow the two as they bring a dog to the park as a cover for drugs and later rough up a girl who we can only guess must be an addict short on cash. Andrew does what he’s told, silently and stoic, with the occasional flashback that only serves to confuse (was his father/brother/relative/friend beaten by these people he’s now working with, and that’s why he has infiltrated the group?), but it’s all relatively low key. Nothing too crazy really happens on screen, all of the death and dismemberment being hinted to but rarely shown (until later, anyway).
I feel like Footsteps, if it was to succeed, needed to be more straight forward with us, tell us what is actually going on rather than vaguely alluding to things that, in the end, we aren’t 100% sure on. The movie gives us what we want in the end, a welcome finale finally delivering the brutality and violence that was hinted at with the found footage-style opening scene, but even though the movie is short, it feels like it takes a long time to get there. When all is said and done, there are so many unanswered questions left over it’s tough to accept the finale in exchange for the slow paced build up.
If you’re a fan of Gareth Evans, you’ll probably find enough bright spots in this film to make it worth your while. Otherwise, while we do finally get some action in the final act, I don’t know if I can recommend this one when there are so many other options that are more evenly done. Hey, at least we’ve got The Raid 3 to look forward to!