Dark Blood  Review – Cycle of Fear and Anger comes full circle
Dark Blood is a Spanish film about a father, Misael (John Leguizamo), who has been put behind the bar in Colombia to serve a 2-year sentence for a heinous crime. The film depicts his evolution from an innocent father to a menacing individual who forms a clique inside the prison. He eventually becomes one of the hot-shot presence for the security guards. The film focuses on violent individuals, who, in a fit of anger, are unable to rationalize the consequence of their actions. There’s a strong cause and effect phenomenon that we see in Misael’s situation, with violence being a determinant for abuse and humiliation that he faces from the security guards.
As the title of the film goes, the film begins with a scene that depicts gory violence, introducing the character of Misael who is bludgeoning an unidentified person in a fit of rage. Later on, we learn that he murdered a man who molested his child and that he has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for it.
‘Dark Blood’ majorly takes place inside a prison. We see Misael’s character transition through his spending time in the prison. He adapts to his surroundings, becomes attuned to the law of the jungle. Within the prison compound, we meet several characters who feel disjointed from society, showing the only sign of humanness when their family members pay occasional visits.
The unsettling environment within the prison compound makes Misael crave for his wife and son’s presence, as his defense attorney played by Adriana Barraza tries to cut short his sentence. The film doesn’t suggest any historical criminal record of Misael which makes us sympathize more with his plight.
He becomes a soft target for the prison guards who treat him inhumanely, flogging him at times and unleashing other brutal tactics against him. But in the midst of such coercive activities, Misael finds solace in a dog named Mange who becomes his companion in the cell.
‘Dark Blood’ is filled with sexual undertones. It suggests theories about Misael’s characterization. There are a few scenes where his wife visits the prison and Misael brutally sodomizes her. In one of the conversations, we learn that perhaps the man who was murdered by Misael may not be behind molesting his child. It suggests that the truth may not be as simple as what we have been made to believe. The theme of sexuality coupled with homoeroticism is further explored in the film when the head guard named Caceres becomes sexually invasive and asks for sexual favors from Misael in return for making an arrangement for the father to meet his son in the prison.
This makes me ponder whether the brutal murder committed by Misael is only a projection of his own crimes over his son’s body. The film doesn’t give us a clear answer to this question but drops several hints for the audience to pick up. The sequence that shows Misael’s son visiting him in the prison is a case in point. It shows the boy’s discomfiture when meeting his father. The scene comes to an awkward end when the boy doesn’t reciprocate to his father’s warm niceties and abruptly leaves the place.
The film’s shocking end makes us believe that Misael’s character may be deluding the audience all along. As his jail term comes to an end, we see him prepping up to leave the prison. However, on seeing the damned face of Caceres, he breaks into an uncontrollable burst of violence and bludgeons Caceres’s face with a knife. In a shocking revelation, we realize that it is the violent death of Caceres that we see at the beginning of the film – which brings the film to a full circle of fear and loathing in a Columbian prison.
Dark Blood may not be a film that people would re-watch, but it certainly has those elements of suspense that would keep any movie fan thinking for weeks to understand it better.