Starring: Shera Bechard, John Tokatlidis, Christian Bako, Laura Mclean
Karma, a beautiful but mute Russian, sees off her sister Anna who is going to Canada to start a new life, initially working as a cleaning maid. However she has been duped by a sex-trafficking gang who force her to work in their strip club in Toronto. When Karma learns her sister has been murdered, she follows in her footsteps to kill all those responsible…
Sweet Karma has been knocking around the festival circuit for the past year, wowing audiences with it’s mix of sexploitation and visceral, gory scenes of deadly revenge. Finally, the film arrives in the UK courtesy of Chelsea Films, and it certainly lives up to the hype it’s generated.
We start as Karma meets with Galina, the trafficking gang’s contact in Russia who gets the girls to sign their contracts and see them on their way to Canada. Right away we can see that something is off – the “Contract” is actually a burlesque licence to allow the girls to work in a strip bar. Hardly any of the girls coming through can speak or read English, so they take for granted what Galina is telling them to be the truth. Karma of course knows what it is but plays along and makes a point of evading the people who are meant to be meeting her when she gets off the plane.
She starts shadowing the gang, seeing where the girls work and where they are kept at night. We the audience get to learn the inner workings of the gang, who is important and who is not. We also see first hand how the girls are treated. Anyone who’s seen Merantau Warrior will have an idea of how these scenes go down.
Apparently the director decided to make the character of Karma a mute because he was worried that Shera Bechard, in her first acting role, would end up damaging the film. It’s one of those lucky accidents, like Tarantino leaving out the actual ear-cutting from Reservoir Dogs, that works to the film’s advantage. Whether or not Shera could handle her character’s dialogue, by keeping her mute has allowed her to concentrate on the rest of her performance. There is a moment when Karma has ensnared one of the gang bosses in the toilets, when we see her pull off a necklace to reveal it’s actually a curtain chord from her motel room. The way Shera Bechard’s face changes expression, giving her a look of grim, no-turning-back determination, which for me is the moment when you realise that this former model-turned actress is the real deal. The way she throws herself into the role is pretty amazing.
There are other amazing moments in this film which it would be wrong to discuss here. Things get brutal and visceral at times, and there is one particular execution which has had festival crowds cheering like crazy.
With a powerhouse central performance and a confident plot structure,
is an excellent revenge shocker, with great death-scenes and some nifty plot twists. Highly recommended.