Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

As this movie ‘The Tattooist’ is firing up we see little Jake hiding out in the basement from his old man. Apparently little Jake has gone and gotten himself a tattoo on his forearm. Jake looks like he’s about ten so my first question is what kind of irresponsible bastard gives a ten year old a tattoo without his parents approval. Bastard. Also Little Jake probably should be well aware that his old man is completely nuts and that when he finds out he has this tattoo there’s no telling what that loon will do. Maybe take a dull knife a cut it off? After this unfortunate scenario Little Jake is out of there and will never see his old man again. Personally I would love to know where a ten year old with a missing chunk of forearm can realistically go, but I’m not getting that answer.

Now Jake (Jason Behr) is all grown up and is a tattoo artist of some renown peddling tattoo’s as a vestibule for healing stuff, even though he himself doesn’t believe in such nonsense. Then at one particular tattoo exhibition the heavily tatted Jake sees ‘her’. It’s always a ‘her’ that just throws a wrench into everything. ‘Her’ is the absolutely lovely New Zealand lass of Samoan descent Sina (Mia Blake) who Jake follows and observes assisting as some natives perform a ritualistic tattoo ceremony. Jake says some stupid stuff, irritates these people to no end, especially Sina’s cousin Alipati (Robbie Magasiva), though Sina is kind of checking him out. But romance will be difficult because Sina and her crew are heading back home to New Zealand in the morning. But before Jake departs, for whatever reason, he steals this tool that the gentlemen were using to tattoo on these people. I don’t know what the verb for ‘to tattoo’ is but to tattoo just doesn’t sound right. Anybody? Jake also cuts his hand on this tool, and now Jake’s adventure into horror is about to begin.

Since a tattoo artist isn’t like a real job, you see a girl you like, girl heads back New Zealand, just follow the girl. No problem. There are the horrific nightmares that Jake has been having since he cut himself with that tool but whatever. So Jake takes a gig at

the shop of his boy Crash (Michael Hurst) and now it’s off to find the girl and give back this thing he stole because he is feeling a bit guilty. In between his search he does ink up a few people to pay the bills, and there the persistent nightmares and the occasional monster he sees behind him in reflections, but whatever, gotta find the girl.

Girl found. People Jake inked up are starting to die. Horribly. Girl and Jake hit it off smashingly. Girl has loose moral character and allows Jake to sex her up then ink her up. I think it was in that order, maybe in reverse. Regardless, both in retrospect were terrible blunders in judgment for the girl and now death is running up on the girl unless Jake can figure out why this happening and how in the hell he can stop it.

This film opens with a little tattoo scripture quote telling us something along the lines that abusing tattoo’s can result in a fate worse than death. Alan Iverson, Rasheed Wallace and 80% of the players in the NBA are screwed if this is true. Let’s hope not. ‘The Tattooist’ as it turns out is an interesting little movie. I suppose its past time for a movie about inking up, considering the TV shows and the huge numbers of people with some kind of tattoo on their person so here we are. But what are we to make of this movie? It’s certainly a different kind of horror movie, and we use the term horror loosely because it was neither all that frightening nor horrific and actually calling it horror movie is probably a touch inaccurate since it’s more of a dramatic thriller, particularly how director Peter Burger plays his hand as the film comes to its conclusion.

But is ‘The Tattooist’ a good movie? Well… it’s an okay movie. It definitely respects the subject matter that it is dealing with and it is written in such a way that even if you enter the movie neither caring about tattoos nor having little knowledge about the history of the art form which is driving this movie, the filmmakers place it all within easy reach. It’s slick looking and well acted, I mean Jason Behr has this laid back non-emotive acting style that I’ve observed in the movies I’ve seen him in, but it works here. But there are times when the pacing crawls somewhat and we’ve already pointed out for a film classified as horror it’s not really all that frightening. It does fair better in the thriller aspects of the movie, though it does fall back into some of the often used, often seen thriller crutches that make the thriller somewhat predictable but it was well executed nonetheless.

But ‘The Tattooist’ is an okay movie. Maybe a little above average making it slightly better than okay. It does approach a different subject matter and this film does manage to take this approach, at times, from a different angle which was a refreshing departure.

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