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'Nothing Bad Can Happen' contradicts itself: It's cruel

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Review: Don't let the title fool you. Cruelty abounds in 'Nothing Bad Can Happen'

With its chapter-heading intertitles and overarching religious theme, director Katrin Gebbe's first feature, "Nothing Bad Can Happen," immediately brings to mind the works of Lars von Trier. But whereas Von Trier has the reputation of a provocateur habitually putting his heroines through various indignities, Gebbe appears to be a misanthrope who subjects her male protagonist to senseless cruelty.

The young, virginal and extremely impressionable Tore (Julius Feldmeier) find himself in a Christian punk-rock commune in Hamburg, Germany, aptly named Jesus Freaks. When disenchanted by a fellow Christian's disregard for celibacy, Tore latches onto the family of Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak), on whose dead car battery Tore has performed a miracle.

As Tore assimilates into his host family, Benno and his partner Astrid (Annika Kuhl) become increasingly sadistic. Yet Tore willingly endures the escalating abuse so he can be close to Astrid's teenage daughter, Sanny (Swantje Kohlhof).

As Tore keeps bouncing back to take one round of beating after another, the film requires a leap of faith. The method to Von Trier's madness is that he provokes thought alongside outrage in his parables. Here, Gebbe musters only outrage, as her antagonists are without nuance, mercy or any redeeming quality. She not-so subtly draws biblical parallels to Tore's plight — complete with a metaphorical resurrection. Her disclosure of the film's true-event basis feels like cop-out justification for the reprehensible behavior seen on screen.

"Nothing Bad Can Happen."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.

At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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