Pathology (2007)

I wasn’t expecting a freighting film from the director (Marc Scholermann) who brought us Crank, that comedic, over-the-top action film starring Jason Statham. Honestly, I wasn’t even expecting a decent movie, but I watched it anyways, bored as I was over the summer break when not tortured relentlessly by my online mathematics course.

I’m proud to report, though, that Pathology was a decent film. I would venture that it was even slightly above average. While it is nothing to write home about, it also was far from terrible. Overall, entertaining for the subject matter though highly formulaic.

The story revolves around Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia), a brilliant forensics student, finding himself as a reluctant murderer (sorry, I mean “anti-hero”) as he gets absorbed into a serial killer clique of fellow medical residents. Following his attempts to balance his personal life with his nightlife, the film will remind viewers of a plethora of other crime dramas revolving around psychopaths. Though Grey, like his associates, kill only ‘those who deserve it’, and arguably only to satisfy his primal urges, the film does an admirable job of feinting and morphing the viewer into feeling some degree of association with Grey despite his clearly heinous character. Augmented with a dubious ending reminiscent of Inception, the film does have its qualities.

To be curt, I was not bored while watching Pathology.

To its credit, it has noteworthy moments. Clearly, the director tried. Whether it is excellent scene transitions or the macabre opening and original premise, Pathology does have some well-thought out aspects to its credit. However, I don’t wish to overstate these things because, for everything that it does well, it gets at least two things wrong.

My real complaint has to do with originality. I know I just said that the premise was original, and it is– coroners’ in training are serial killers who egg one another one with each kill, turning it into a game– but that is not what I mean. I refer to the handling of psychopaths. Though protagonist Grey is handled well in his ambiguous nature as a psychopath, everything else is cliched.

For instance, the whole ‘we kill those who deserve it” but sometimes, also, general scumbags. It is played out. Why it is played out is because people don’t really want to watch a film about people who kill innocent people without justifying it under some vague eugenics-like rationale. Real artistic integrity comes from exploring the realities of murderers and society in a way which does not condone their behavior but also does not take a moralistic approach either. Obviously, this does not happen in Pathology, and not was I expecting it to happen; even so, I find it noteworthy that the director seemed so lazy as to just have this logic be the go-to logic for the film’s central cast.

Then there is the boring drug sub-plot. Unnecessary, in my opinion, as was also the juvenile understanding of psychopaths in general which the film displayed; this is the other real gripe I have with the film– that it tries too hard. “Psychopathic doctors gather in an underground ‘dungeon’ to get high, drink, and decapitate the dead while teasing their peers on how they murder?” It is too much like a collection of what seems cool but is really just a fad: the film doesn’t feel authentic, it feels like an anthology of greatest hit moments in the crime drama genre.

I think this is why I repeatedly got the impression that it felt more like a TV series than a film.

Honestly, the movie felt like a cross between Dexter and Scrubs. In fact, it felt like a series crammed into a ninety-minute block. It felt like a pilot, in other words. This is not out of place since I could actually see this film becoming an entertaining show if the right writers and directors were found and if they really knew what they were doing with the plot. It feels far better oriented to that medium than it does a low-budget film. While I have no illusions that such a show, like many, would crash and fall sooner or later, as a concept, Pathology finds its wings in an episodic format and is why the camera work accentuates well-crafted transitions.

To wrap this up: Pathology is an average movie. There is a few intriguing things about and a lot of mediocre things about. It has an irresolute ending which makes one think and an emotional arc which is touching, but whether these things outweighs the average, who can tell. I found myself entertained but still cannot shake off that Pathology is simply another decent movie which tries too hard.

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