Writer: Gareth Evans (as G.H Evans)
Cast: Nicholas Bool, Mads Koudal, Jared Morgan, Solitaire Mouneimne, Emma Powell
Running time: 77mins
The lowdown: Gareth (The Raid 2) Evans’ micro-budgeted, Cardiff based debut is a sombre, sordid tale riffing on the urban myth of snuff movies and the God’s lonely man vengeance of Taxi Driver. Sandpaper rough but brimming with potential, its chief fascination comes from seeing Evans’ themes and style in embryonic form.
The full verdict: Footsteps (also known as the blunter Vengeance Day on UK DVD) is raw. Raw in its story and themes, raw in its production and execution, raw in its talent.
And a raw blueprint for what would come once Evans had relocated to Indonesia.
A basic story has reticent loner Andrew (Bool) hitting bottom after losing both parents, his girlfriend (Powell) and his dead end pie factory job, while his best mate lies comatosed from a vicious attack.
After himself enduring a beating recorded by The Cameraman (Morgan), Andrew is absorbed into the snuff industry under the tutelage of unhinged, body disposal expert Paul (Koudal).
Influenced by Japanese directors Tsukamoto Shinya and Kitano Takeshi, filmmakers who also drop audiences into fully formed worlds with no roadmap for guidance, Evans (billed as G.H. Evans) fragments the first act into scenes of random violence, snatched moments of intimacy and brief bursts of dialogue, flitting back and forth across timelines.
Ambition is not matched by execution, and Footsteps’ opening risks crumbling into incoherence. Evans would later perfect set-ups across varying timelines in The Raid 2, after honing his talent for economic storytelling with Merantau and The Raid.
The director is more assured visually; demonstrating the flair for shot composition, strong colour schemes and dynamic editing that would later propel him to global recognition. Leavening black humour is also deployed, the snuff company is a small-time production facility with tea always on the brew and Andrew essentially swaps one meat packing job for another.
Inevitably, acting ability veers wildly – Bool is adequate as the wounded loner, Morgan am-dram OTT as The Cameraman – but the film is elevated by the unrestrained Koudal (flown over from Denmark especially for the film) and Mouneimne as Michelle, a woman in debt to the mad Dane.
Evans announces himself as a director of note in a scene when Andrew finds himself in Michelle’s house with Paul, the psycho clearly in the mood for murder. Shocking, surprising and unnerving, it echoes the starkness of Dead Man’s Shoes and paves the way for the (bloodily well-realised) third act one-man war against parasitic lowlifes that would become the director’s finishing move.
Evans would look East to discover his cinematic voice, but his debut remains fascinating if flawed.