The Life and Death of a Porno GangTitle: The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009)
Director: Mladen Djordjevic
Runtime: 90 minutes

Sometimes marketing works on even the most hardened, cynical film fans. Though I’m not all that hard, or too cynical, I still tend to ignore most marketing campaigns that claim their movie to be “better than” or “more shocking than” another film. When The Life and Death of a Porno Gang boasted that it was “more powerful than A Serbian Film” and “one of the most controversial video releases of the year”, however, I listened and immediately felt the urge to review this movie. In other words, the marketing worked.

Porno Gang, much like A Serbian Film, takes the viewer through the harsh, disgusting, violent world of Serbian pornography. A young film student, Marko (Mihajlo Jovanovic) is desperate to make a feature film. He falls ass-backwards into a job as an adult film director instead, which proves disastrous. He attempts to make artistically driven porno flicks using his boss’ money, and that’s never a good idea. The underworld mafia quickly turns on him, and Marko is forced to flee his hometown.

Marko’s next big idea is to assemble a group of his friends in the porn business to create a traveling “porno cabaret” show. The group takes the road, stopping in small towns, putting on live porn shows for the town’s old men. When the money gets tight, and a creepy old man approaches Marko with a life-changing offer, Porno Gang shows the lengths that some humans will go to make ends meet.

More than any other film I’ve seen – including A Serbian Film – Porno Gang has the ingredients to offend even those people who believe they cannot be offended. There are large amounts of graphic violence, nudity, homosexuality, pornography, drug use, brutality to animals, zoophilia, subtitles, and snuff films. If any of these might offend you, stop reading now, and move on with your life.

To Porno Gang’s credit, the special effects crew did such an amazing job, I genuinely thought I was watching real snuff films, real zoophilia, and real brutality to animals as I sat through the film, and it couldn’t have made me any more uncomfortable. Thankfully, though, this is still a movie with actors, props, and fake blood. Writer and director Mladen Djordjevic had me believing in the unbelievable, which is a feat in itself.

The theme of Porno Gang’s plot is that of escalation. The movie begins lightheartedly as Marko tells of his first love that didn’t work out, and his meeting Una, who he seems destined to be with forever. He goes on to talk about how he fell into a job in the porn business, and of the dilemma he goes through when he wants to make art films, but his boss wants to make money. It’s all very easy for the viewer those first 20-minutes or so.

It’s not until Marko decides to start a live porn show that things start taking a downward spiral, both for the characters in the film, and the audience watching. This is where we see the first spurt of brutality in the form of a fistfight. It, however, is a tame moment compared to what is ahead.

The escalation continues throughout the script, and what results is a major shift in storytelling for the final third of the film. Djordjevic decides to change to much larger gaps in time, which gives the film an episodic feeling as it reaches its final, unnatural climax. This shift in storytelling, though, makes the film feel even longer than it is, and this final third loses all of the nice pacing that had already been established.

Where Djordjevic succeeds is in making this narrative film feel like a documentary, or a peek into the sad life of Serbian porn and snuff filmmaking. He uses a great number of handheld shots, and no dolly or steadicam shots, which is certainly a choice on Djordjevic’s part. He does use tripods at points, but the film is most effective when the audience can feel the cameraman running around a character because it makes us a part of the character’s world, which gets more and more unsettling as the film progresses.

The problem with Porno Gang is that its message is unclear. Why does a viewer put him or herself through two hours of some of the most disgusting and brutal scenes of cinema? This is a question I can’t answer, which is why I cannot recommend Porno Gang as anything more than a test of strength: how far is the viewer willing to go? What are they willing to sit through? This is the litmus test for shock cinema.

Djordjevic and crew have probably succeeded in what they wanted to do: make a film using solid, unknown actors, and make it as gross and realistic as humanly possible. That is great for them, but what it leaves us with is a shell of a film; a film without meaning. The marketing crew cannot be blamed for focusing on the lengths the film will go to gross out the viewer because there was little else to go on. Porno Gang is only recommended to the most daring viewers who are looking to gross themselves out; everyone else should stay far, far away.

one_and_a_half_stars

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This review originally appeared on Inside Pulse Movies in 2012.

Branden Chowen
Editor-in-Chief at Cinefessions
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn't until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor's and master's degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.