Careless Crime Review

On the 19th of August 1978, terrorists set alight to the Cinema Rex in Abadan, Iran; killing over 420 people inside. While setting cinemas on fire was not unheard of before and during the Iranian Revolution of the late 70s – what happened at Cinema Rex remained one of the deadliest terrorist attacks for over 20 years. Inspired by this incident is Shahram Mokri’s Careless Crime – now, over 40 years on, four men are planning on recreating the fire at a screening of a film also titled ‘Careless Crime’. Roped into this plot is Takbali (Abolfazl Kahani), a seasoned arsonist who winds up in this group with three men much older than him; men who themselves lived through the Iranian Revolution. In the Orizzonti section this year at the Venice Film Festival, Careless Crime is an astute pondering on the meaning of cinema, human recklessness, and the connection between Iran’s past and present. 

Photo © Careless Crime 

Flittering between screen and audience, Careless Crime is best described as a film within a film. On screen is the story of a group of soldiers who stumble across an unexploded missile in the middle of the desert. Nearby, they come across two women who are setting up an outdoor screening for the film The Deer (the same film that was playing in the Cinema Rex when it was attacked.) Out in the audience, we see the perspectives of Elham (Razieh Mansouri), the cinema manager, and Takbali. Elham is a young woman working at the cinema who’s always desperately running around trying to get the right posters in the right places. When she’s not rushing about, she’s bickering with her mother about parallel parking and perspectives on love and relationships. Notably, one of Careless Crime’s strengths is its ability to build natural and realistic dialogue. From students joking around in the cinema foyer to Elham’s spats with her mother, Careless Crime is fantastic at creating an authentic and almost calming naturalism about the whole event – inducing a realism which only makes the attack that much more startling. Such attention to atmospheric detail is indefinitely one of the reasons why Careless Crime won the Bisato d’Oro Award for Best Original Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival.

Photo © Careless Crime

‘Careless’ is a heightened theme running throughout the film. Mokri plants reminders and warnings throughout alluding to the forthcoming fire and how it could have been prevented. While Takbali and his group are morally depraved and refuse to see this fire as a murderous attack – “As soon as it starts people will just rush out” – there are also other careless acts at play to ensure such an attack would be deadly. Desperate for as many ticket sales as possible, the greedy cinema manager ensures to cram as many seats into the theatre as he can; blocking fire exit routes and forcing crates of drinks to barricade the already inward opening doors. Careless Crime notes humans’ own selfishness and thoughtless actions beyond just reckless acts of terrorism; from blocked fire exit doors to unattended missiles, this story is rife with warnings about the dangers of human greed, indifference, and the tendency to forget about the past.

Photo © Careless Crime

However, while sprinkled with interesting ideas, there are times when Careless Crime can also feel misguided and tiring. It’s undoubtedly filled with some clever and authentic dialogue, but conversations can grow to feel repetitive, impersonal, and not amounting to much – meaning it’s hard to get a firm latch onto characters or their true intentions. With an overly heightened focus on banal conversations and everyday musings, a meandering and fickle plotline, and a 2-hour 20-minute runtime; this is a testing watch. Dragging along with a lazy apathy for its characters, there’s little moments of emotion, tension or even build up – leaving most of the film’s true action to occur within the final 20 minutes. 

Photo © Careless Crime

Unfortunately, Careless Crime is a film weighed down by its vagueness, lack of structure, and inability to commit to its characters. Yet still, Shahram Mokri introduces some striking and thoughtful deliberations on cinema and spectatorship, as well as a careful consideration of Iran’s history and future. With compelling reflections on the carelessness of human nature and the hazards of forgetting about the past wrapped up in a bloated and stretched-out timeline, Careless Crime is an interesting but certainly strenuous watch.

Rating: Imagini pentru three star and a half rating

Written by Abi Aherne

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