Ms .45

Ms .45 ★★★★½

After being raped not once, but twice in one day, something snaps in Thana's head - she picks up an iron and batters her assailant to death. And so begins a killing spree the likes of which New York hasn't witnessed since a certain Reno Miller hit the streets two years earlier, wielding a power drill and a rage-fueled lust for blood. I think this actually makes a pretty good companion piece to Abel Ferrara's previous film The Driller Killer - in many ways, Thana is like a mute female version of Reno; her weapon of choice a .45 rather than DIY supplies.

This upgrade in armory mirrors the step up in quality film-wise from from The Driller Killer too; where that was all about the scuzzy DIY aesthetic, James Lemmo's cinematography here dazzles with with succulent close ups, steady pull-back shots, rich colours - deep red blood spattered across a white photographer's screen like the canvas for a visceral abstract - and dramatic lighting: I especially like the way the light falls across Thana's face when she's dressed as a nun (Ferrara's twisted sense of humour coming to the fore again!), illuminating one side, while the rest is cloaked in shadow.

It's technically an 80s film, but as with any films from the very early part of the decade there's inevitably a lot of bleed-over from the previous, and the style of Ms. 45 is rooted very much in 70s exploitation. As with The Driller Killer, this is NYC from the wrong side of the tracks, all fenced-in wastelands, dark alleys and low-rent diners. It also seems to be entirely populated with sleazy, predatory slimeballs.

Thana's first two kills are almost accidental. After that though, she gets a taste for blood and doesn't need much provocation to gun down her exclusively male targets; even making out with a girl is enough to get on her shit list! The one time she's denied a kill - justifiably, this particular guy did nothing wrong - she's visibly frustrated, trigger finger pulsing angrily like she's just been Glock-blocked.

As well as going out on nocturnal hunting trips, she spends most of the film trying to dispose of the first body - the rapist she killed in her own apartment. This involves a pretty gnarly scene of her hacking off an arm with what looks like a bread knife and stuffing her fridge full of various body parts in black plastic bags, which she slowly disposes of. This would all be fine and dandy if it wasn't for her neighbour's dog, Phil (great name for a dog!), who sniffs out something tasty. She decides Phil is getting too close to giving the game away and needs go on permanent walkies, but this proves harder than she expects. Offing scuzzbucket photographers and lecherous street corner bag-retrievers is one thing, but a cute little dog? That's cold Obi-Wan. She doesn't want to blow it away, so tries to encourage it to shuffle off the mortal coil of its own accord, but it's pretty hard to persuade a dog to commit suicide, no matter long you spend in the middle of the road nudging it towards oncoming trucks.

Rape revenge wasn't new at this point in time - there'd already been movies like I Spit On Your Grave - but Abel Ferrara makes it fun, bringing his own unique sense of style, and as with his previous film, a real sense of place too. A muscular jazz score propels the film along at breakneck speed, scorching fat sax over a solid funk groove, often going into sax stabs for a kill, like a funky echo of Psycho's strings. Add to this cocktail of sound a silent, deadly heart, and you've got a cult classic worthy of the title.

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