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Betrayal, reprisal in a Greek melodrama

A family, devastated by a car crash, bickers over love and money in 'Blackmail Boy.'

January 06, 2006|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

In definite need of a sea breeze to cool off its overheated characters, the Greek melodrama "Blackmail Boy" reaches for tragedy but settles for soap opera. Writer-directors Michalis Reppas and Thanassis Papathanasiou concoct a complex web of sexual liaisons and real estate finagling, but the payoff is limited.

The title character, Christos (Yannis Tsimitselis), is a sulky pretty boy who works in the bakery belonging to his mother, Magda (Nena Mendi), and zips around his provincial town on a motorcycle. He needs to move fast because he's juggling affairs with Fay, a pretty dance instructor, Gia (Joyce Evidi), a neurotic divorcee, and Giorgos (Akyllas Karazisis), a closeted minor local official with a wife and two sons.

Magda's daughter, Giota (Jeannie Papadopoulou), and her studly son-in-law, Stelios (Alexis Georgoulis), live in an apartment upstairs from her with their young daughter. The family is constantly fighting about money -- in fact, a good part of the movie is devoted to yelling and screaming -- and a plot of land they own that is destined to be turned into a park, limiting the payout. Stelios hits on an idea to pressure Giorgos into wielding some influence with the city by hinting of knowledge of the affair with Christos.

When Giorgos doesn't act fast enough, Stelios ups the ante and demands cash, triggering a string of betrayals and reprisals.

The film opens with the family involved in a horrific car crash, which leaves another daughter dead and Magda's husband, Manolis (Alexandros Antonopoulos), in a vegetative state, not from his injuries but from the shock of the incident. The action then moves to the present, when Manolis watches the depraved events as a muted, glassy-eyed chorus.

With the fewest histrionics, the middle section of the movie is the most entertaining as the various romantic entanglements reveal themselves. When allowed to bring the volume down, most of the actors are quite good, especially Mendi, Evidi and Georgoulis.

Whatever point that Reppas and Papathanasiou are hoping to make via the tragic ending is lost amid the hysteria and a particularly pretentious sequence involving water.

The film's original title in Greek was "Oxygen," and by the film's finish, the tank is clearly on empty.

*

'Blackmail Boy'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Language, nudity, sexuality and violence

A Picture This! Entertainment release. Directors Michalis Reppas and Thanassis Papathanasiou. Producer Elena Hadzialexandrou. Screenplay by Reppas and Papathanasiou. Cinematographer Lefteris Pavlopoulos. Editor Ioanna Spiliopoulou. Costume designer Evelyn Sioupi. Music Nikos Kypourgos. Set design Antonis Danglidis. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

At Laemmle's Fairfax Cinemas, 7907 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 655-4010.

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