“My Step-Mom is famous!”
A powerful and relevant film, Take Back presents a story of justice and revenge in the continuous fight against sex trafficking. From director Christian Sesma, and writer Zach Zerries, this is a film which, despite a generic outlook, is a multi-layered action tale which downplays on extravaganza but instead excels in character emotion.
Zara (Gillian White) is a successful lawyer living a quiet, yet wonderful life with her husband, Brian (Michael Jai White), and step-daughter, Nancy (Jessica Uberuaga). During a routine trip to her favourite coffee shop, Zara intervenes in a situation between the barista and a toxic male, resulting in a kick-ass display of female power. Subsequently, her actions are seen by everyone as the CCTV footage goes viral. Alongside the expected fame and recognition from the clip, there is unwanted attention… Patrick (Mickey Rourke), a dog-obsessed sex trafficer, and a ghost from Zara’s past, begins to intrude on her family life and inflict volence.
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Though its position as an action film can be read as a glamorisation or a light take on the darkness women endure, Take Back can be a ferociously difficult viewing. The subject matter is disgusting. Sex trafficiking is an atrocious vulgarity. Zara is a character that many women can find relateable. As a survivor, Zara has seemingly moved on from her past, establishing a wonderful life with humanly excellent people, whom she calls “family”, but truthfully, like many women, she can never really move on from the abuse she endured during her younger days. However, she is presented with two choices when faced by her abuser: kill them or have them face justice. Take Back is edgy in its depiction of revenge and justice – what is right? What is wrong?
As Zara, Gillian White is a powerhouse. Strong, confident, and determined, this is one of the best female performances in years. Supported excellently by Michael Jai White, his character Brian is a supportive, yet funny, martial arts instructor. They are a genuinely nice on-screen couple. Fans of White may be disappointed in that he (rightfully) takes a back seat in this one, but his impressive physicality is present when appropriate. Finally, onto Mickey Rourke… Expectedly, for the majority of Take Back, his performance seems both half-bothered and minimal, but when the intensity flares up, so does he. Like MJW’s Brian, Rourke is only applied on screen when necessary. The grotesque nature and despicable dialogue of the Patrick character feels slightly prehistoric, but contextually, it seems appropriate.
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As an action film, Take Back is often full of complete carnage. Death by pizza cutter, and shoot-outs reminiscent of the first Lethal Weapon, this is an action film that finds itself relevant to a wide range of fandoms and audiences. Occasionally, there is an atmosphere suggesting that the deep subject matter is just there for the ride – an array of suspect male gaze shots don’t help the cause either – but when Zara takes centre stage, raw emotion is present. Fully equipped with flashbacks of torment and torture, Zara’s pain and Gillain White’s performance outweigh any glorification of the subject matter. Take Back thoroughly excels in its depiction of the female survivor.
Take Back is out on Digital and DVD on 29th March from 101 Films.