Recoil (2001)

I’m obsessed with DIY comic books from the 1980s and ‘90s. Like their indie film counterparts, these comics explode with crude ambition, intense passion, and blunt savagery. One of my favorite imprints from this era is Silverwolf Comics. With titles like Guillotine, Night Master, and Eradicators, Silverwolf presented a super-complicated universe that felt like it was drawn and plotted by thirteen-year-old lunatics on dust. I never understand what’s happening in a Silverwolf comic, but I always go back for more. How could I not want to read about the further adventures of Grips, a half-human, half-cyborg with Wolverine claws and an Uzi?

Recoil feels like a live-action adaptation of a Silverwolf comic and I’m pretty sure it was made specifically for me.

Eric is having a rough go of high school. Years ago, he witnessed the shooting death of his father by his brother, who disappeared after the crime. Bullied at school and struggling to please his single mom, Eric suffers from nightmares and narcoleptic attacks. That is, until he slips and falls in the backyard, lands on a silver sphere from Phantasm, and discovers that he can morph his right hand into a gun just by thinking about it. Now a mysterious government agency is tracking Eric through a computer chip that’s embedded in his hand.

When I was in high school, I fell and broke my collarbone. I didn’t gain special abilities by landing on a silver sphere. But I was forced to wear a shoulder brace over my clothes and then some butthole jocks started calling me “Gimpy Joe.”

This is just one more reason why movies are the best.

Black filmmaker Wendell Hubbard deserves a lot of credit for writing and directing Recoil. On paper, the movie feels like an After School Special mashed together with Cyborg and a mid-80s issue of X-Men. There are timeless statements on gun violence, shitty cops, and the importance of family. It’s a movie that could never be made by a white person. And for that reason alone, it deserves to be seen. But this isn’t for casual dippers in the shot-on-video whirlpool. Recoil is for the true champions, the gold medal winners in freestyle swimming who are willing to dive headfirst into a cyclone in the middle of the ocean. The plot is inexplicable and there are no explanations for anything that happens. Instead, we’re treated to a labyrinth of audio-visual chaos, where dubstep beats clash with jazz saxophones and conversations are filmed by a camcorder that’s placed approximately 1” away from people’s mouths.

Recoil feels like it was thrown together by a film student who was lapsing in and out of consciousness during an all-nighter. From the stuttering edits to the cybernetic overlays, from the endless dissolves to the baffling use of negative footage, everything we see and hear is an experiment. Typically, this would be a detractor — especially for a movie with a logline instead of a plot. But Recoil has an infectious energy. It moves fast, and the action ramps up considerably as we move along. There’s little to understand, but a lot to absorb. This includes the quote from Edgar Allan Poe that appears before the end credits:

“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”

I’m not sure, but I liked that the security guard at Eric’s school made his rounds while eating a slice of pepperoni pizza.

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