Director: Buddy Giovinazzo
Starring: Rick Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio, Michael Tierno, Eddie Pepitone
Fighting, killing, maiming. Agent orange and the torture cages were the easy part!…
Frankie Dunlan is a Vietnam vet that had a horrible time during the war, which is haunting him to this day. He is now unemployed, living with a pregnant wife and sick child in a small and dirty apartment on Staten Island.
They have no money, no food and Frankie is owing money to some local thugs who use any opportunity to beat him up. It’s a depression life for Frankie and he is on the verge of giving up everything and quit the fight for life.
Combat Shock is a disturbing and depression look at Frankie, a guy who just wants to get his life together and do good with his family. The world he lives in has no opportunities available for him and he is not getting any help after his service for his country. You cannot help but feel for the guy and think that he could live a decent normal life if someone just believed in him and gave him a shot.
From the first few minutes of the film, you know that things will not end well with Frankie, but few would guess how this story would end up. There is such a gritty and dirty feel to the film that translate into pure hopelessness, and the tone is very unique. I don’t think there are other films out there that has the same type of atmosphere that this one has.
The few scenes that do not feature Frankie shows some sad junkie and some terribly nasty drug use scenes. We also see what a terrible life Frankie’s wife lives with nothing happening, all hours of the day is spent by taking care of their sick child. Speaking of their kid…. it looks like a mutated alien and I think they should have kept him under the blanket instead of showing him off, cause his looks take you away from the film and make you wonder what the hell that thing is supposed to be.
Frankie Dunlan is played by the director’s brother Rick Giovinazzo. This was his first acting job and he does an amazing job. His character seems to have been influenced a little by Robert De Niro’s legendary character Travis Bickel from Taxi Driver. It was quite funny and surprising to see that Rick is working as a orchestrator on big Hollywood films these days. The rest of the cast was okay, but none else shines like this guy did.
Buddy Giovinazzo did a terrific job in creating such a gritty and emotional story on a budget of only 40,000 dollars. There are some parts that the budget shows its restrains, the war scenes for example doesn’t work very well because they had to be filmed in Staten Island and isn’t very believable. He does make full use of the fact that he shot the film on 16mm though and there is no doubt that he is a very talented guy. I haven’t seen anything else he has done, but he is still active directing different things every now and then.
Combat Shock is a “Tromasterpiece” as they like to say in Tromaville. It’s a movie about depression, about abandonment and mistreatment from the government filmed very gritty and dirty. It’s one of the finer films that Troma has had their name attached to and it’s an excellent film.