The story of a deadly cult and its enigmatic leader, Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan is a somewhat darker way to bring in the New Year, but that doesn’t make it any less watchable. Starring the ever-brilliant Vincent Cassel as the powerful patriarch and newcomer Jeremy Chabriel as his protégé, this tale of child assassins set against the barren hills of rural Australia is every bit as provocative as it is interesting.
From a sequestered commune in the hills, Gregori (Cassel) searches for and shelters abused and abandoned single mothers and their children. After giving the mothers a safe place to call home, he trains their children to become powerful assassins. But when a new mother enters the group and her son struggles to adapt, eldest child and favourite Alexander (Chabriel) starts to question the cult he calls home and its leader. With flawless and subtle performances from almost the entire cast, it is a consuming watch that lingers well after the titles roll.
While there is a lot to like about Kleiman’s film, it suffers from occasional predictability and a lack of a climactic ending. From the patriarch irrationally lashing out when questioned to the growing child learning of the darkness in the world and turning his back on it, there is not much on offer that will truly surprise audiences, aside from the opening focusing on Gregori’s school for assassins. Likewise, the ending leaves audiences sitting on the edge of their seats before deciding to let them hang there – it fails to give the punchy conclusion that the film deserves.
Despite its slightly flawed storyline, Partisan is still extremely entertaining and, refreshingly for the drama genre, not excessively long. Chabriel’s performance as the brainwashed Alexander is captivating, as is Cassel’s as his conflicted father figure; the two of them lead a film that brings to life a world rarely seen on screen. It may not be perfect, but this is certainly a thought-provoking film that is both exciting and unusual.
Partisan is released in select cinemas on 8th January 2016.
Watch the trailer for Partisan here: