Enemy Territory

Certificate: 18
Running Time: 89 minutes
Director: Peter Manoogian
Starring: Gary Frank, Jan-Michael Vincent, Tony Todd
Genre: Action, Drama, Crime
Country: USA

When insurance salesman Barry (Gary Frank) gets trapped in an inner city tower block ruled by a gang calling themselves “The Vampires” and led by the dangerous Count (Tony Todd) what should be an ordinary working day becomes a fight for survival.

One thing that Enemy Territory does incredibly well is claustrophobia.  Director Manoogian’s back catalogue is not one that screams auteur standard but he has seemingly caught hold of something with this film and shook it for all it’s worth.  As a straight to video release it was always going to be one that has to fight against the shortcomings of independent/low budget cinema but in that, and in the film’s narrative, and it’s location for that matter Manoogian has been able to turn every disadvantage to an advantage.   Manoogian is able to sculpt a mise-en-scene (and mise-en-shoot for that matter) that captures the siege mentality of the script beautifully and delivers an incredibly claustrophobic and limited (in a good way) visual style that places you right alongside the protagonist as he is pushed further up towards the Gods and the ominous confrontation between white collar stiff and urban gang of lost boys.

Gary Frank is a strong piece of casting.  He’s never ever been the leading male in any understanding on the term but he’s a solid actor and sufficiently below the radar that his survival is not guaranteed, making the film a little more dangerous than you’d expect.  Tony Todd (as The Count) is a great piece of casting, there are moments when he’s serving up a little more ham than what’s comfortable to view but he has an understanding of the role and the type of man who surrounds himself with teenagers in order to intimidate and bully his way to a living and it all comes across on screen.  Jan-Michael Vincent looks a little uncomfortable on screen, he seems to carry across an aura that he’s “slumming it” post Air Wolf which is a real shame, yes it’s a quite a fall from the realm of production and reputation he was used to but it’s a working job and the film makers were clearly pleased to have him on board.

There are a lot of problems with Enemy Territory and they are, like most low budget films, the obvious problems.  The script has several holes in it which create a bit of confusion with the logic, the dialogue is (in parts) stunted and flat but it’s nothing that another draft wouldn’t solve so it’s a lot more frustrating than it should be.  Similarly the cinematography is a little stunted.  The camera work can be, at times, a little two shot and blocky which when you take into account the budgetary limitations makes it feel a little cheaper than it should.  The soundtrack is interesting, it's unchallenging almost default score for an independent film but in it being cheap (and a little nasty) it actually suits the atmosphere the film has created.

The biggest problem with Enemy Territory is wasted opportunities.  It’s a film that has the potential to raise a lot of interesting topics as it flirts with the idea of the horror genre and the true horror of the forgotten urban landscape, poverty and how it is all too often race related but these are passed over for a standard cat and mouse movie that, though interesting, has been seen thousands of times before.


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