Director: Can Evrenol
Writers: Ogulcan Eren Akay, Can Evernol
I’m trying “Baskin.” I’m trying. I doubt the movie was inspired by the work of New Jersey artist Leonard Baskin and google keeps redirecting me to “Baskin Robbins.” “Baskin does translate to “raid” in Turkish, but that title doesn’t seem to fit. The only reason for my investigation, while I enjoyed “Baskin,” is I believed myself to be a third party witnessing some kind of Turkish lore. That’s not necessarily an issue in enjoying foreign movies as “Thale” and “Curando” were ripe with cultural mythology, but totally coherent to a foreigner’s eye. I just felt like I was on the outside looking in for “Baskin.”
“Baskin” is the story of five policemen responding to a call for backup in a remote abandoned building. Little do they know, that building is a portal to hell….maybe…I’m not sure. I guess it is, because the tagline is literally “five cops go to hell.” Anyway, there’s a nice variety of cops as they all have fairly distinct personalities and their camaraderie feels authentic. The two cops we pay the most attention to are the Chief and moral compass, Remzi (Ergun Kuyucu), and bright eyed new recruit, Arda (Gorkem Kasal).
On their way to the crime scene, they run down an innocent bystander and crash their van into a lake. Once they claw themselves out of the water, they realize they’re near the location of the incident. They decide to go ahead and enter the building because they are still needed and can use a ride home. Once they enter, there’s no immediate sign of their colleagues. After some roaming, they find a single incomprehensible police officer smashing his head against the wall. After he points in the general direction of his colleagues, our five leads wander themselves into a truly disturbing predicament.
This movie does a few things incredibly well, but the one thing it does best is making hell look goddamn awful. There’s splinters, broken glass, bloody naked folks, mud, unlicensed surgery, pointy edges, orgies, rust, screaming, hammers, gore, rape, darkness, chains, torture, intestines, and unbounded misery. It’s so horrific, the mere sight of the realm can drive you mad. “Baskin” really does establish a dismal and wretched sense hopelessness.
I have to be honest, this movie is hard to review. “Baskin” is a stellar technical achievement, but the consequences of hell seem void without a soulful anchor. I can potentially like these five characters, but I know very little about them. I can differentiate the jerks from the nice guys, but my interest in their survival is strictly because I don’t want them to suffer. None of them have incentives for redemption. I have no idea if they are paying for past sins or just stumbled into hell. Even if they just stumbled into hell, I longed for a reason for them to survive other than to avoid pain. There are reprieves to the savagery as Adra would have dream sequences with Remzi bestowing wisdom, but why? Is it a metaphor to Adra becoming a man? If so, the ending kind of pulls the rug out from under that.
There is a chance that I am being culturally insensitive. With the recent political strife in Turkey, “Baskin” may be a statement on police brutality. With the 2013 protests, Turkish police injured thousands and killed eleven civilians. “Baskin” could be a reflection of that abuse redirected toward the police, displaying the futility of violence. If that’s the case and “Baskin” is a deep seated metaphor and my arrogant American tunnel vision is hindering that understanding, I could’ve still used some more character development.