June 16, 2011
Sweet Karma (2009) attempts to do what Eastern Promises (2007) did for the Russian mafia in England, only by setting it in Toronto, Canada, and with a smaller budget and minus the big name talent. So, instead of Naomi Watts, this film has Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard as a mute Russian girl named Karma Balint who travels to Canada to avenge the murder of her sister Anna (Nowakowska) at the hands of the Russian mafia.
The film takes a gritty look at Toronto’s criminal underworld where girls come over from Russia and are forced to become strippers and prostitutes. These girls are threatened, bulled and stripped of their humanity – not the most uplifting subject matter. The beautiful Karma infiltrates a Russian owned strip club as, what else, an exotic dancer, which allows Bechard to show off her considerable assets. Karma uses her sexy looks to work her way through the organization, systematically killing those responsible for her sister’s murder.
The decision to make Karma a mute avenger is certainly one way to get around Shera Bechard’s limitations as an actress but certainly isn’t an original idea as Abel Ferrara’s gritty revenge film Ms. 45 (1981) already played around with this concept. Sweet Karma basically fuses Ferrara’s film with Eastern Promises. For a first time actress, Bechard is not too bad. She certainly has a screen presence and can emote when required. In a nice touch, Karma doesn’t suddenly become an unrealistic killing machine in the action sequences. They are messy and realistic with a kinetic rhythm that comes from hand-held camerawork. The cheap digital camerawork also adds to the scuzzy vibe of the film. In addition, the cast of completely unknown actors enhances the film’s low rent authenticity.
Sweet Karma doesn’t end in a redemptive bloodbath that it seems to be heading towards but rather ends on a surprisingly contemplative (sort of) note, which is kind of refreshing.