Film Review: Julia

A woman is encouraged by a very unconventional therapist to take revenge on the men who assaulted her in this variation on the rape/revenge formula.
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Before her first date with handsome plastic surgeon Piers (Ryan Cooper), the curiously named Julia Shames (Ashley C. Williams) agrees to meet him at his apartment for a glass of champagne. But her drink is drugged and she's gang-raped by three of Piers' friends (Brad Koed, Cary Woodworth and Darren Lipari) while he watches. They leave her for dead on a riverbank: "The tide will carry her out," says Piers callously as they leave. But it doesn't.

Julia, already a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, doesn't call the police and resorts to cutting herself until she overhears a woman in a bar talking about a form of therapy that teaches rape victims to reclaim their autonomy and sense of self-worth. The woman, Sadie (Tahyna Tozzi), introduces Julia to Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy), who specializes in treating survivors of sexual assault and sends her out to kill men who have victimized the "sisterhood" of women who comprise his patients. Then Julia spots one of her own rapists and decides to go off-script.

On the plus side, Julia does put a small spin on the by-now well-worn formula that drives films as various as The Last House on the Left (1972/2009), Thriller: A Cruel Picture  (1973), Lady Snowblood (1973)—which gets a callout in JuliaLipstick (1976), I Spit on Your Grave (1978/2010), Ms. 45 (1981), The Ladies Club (1986) and Chaos (2005). At first Julia isn't simply punishing the men who hurt her (or someone close to her), but rather becoming an avenging angel whose targets are men who hate women (the telling Swedish title of Stieg Larsson's novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). And Ashley C. Lawrence, best known as the unfortunate "middle girl" in The Human Centipede, gives a compelling performance as the abused and tormented Julia.

But ultimately that's not enough to elevate Julia above its genre roots, any more than more high-profile profile films like Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi's Baise Moi (2000) and Gaspar Noé's Irreversible (2002) were able to transcend theirs.

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