Trailing the likes of Ashanti (1979) and Taken (2008), Slave is a Brit flick take on the glossily lurid kidnapped sex-slave sub-genre. Newly-engaged American couple David (Sam Page) and Georgie (Natassia Malthe) visit the former’s estranged British father at his palatial villa in sunny Spain. Robert Dunsmore (Michael Maxwell), a beer-bloated cockney caricature, is an ex-boxer living it large as a serial womaniser involved in dodgy dealings. An unrepentent misogynist since running out on his wife and son, Robert remains unmoved by David’s devotion to Georgie.
Whilst partying under the influence at a seedy nightclub, gorgeous Georgie attracts an array of admirers. Then when David returns from a bathroom break he finds his fiancé has vanished. Other clubbers deny Georgie was ever there while the Spanish police doubt David’s story and his father maintains she must have run off with another, richer man. In reality, Georgie has been abducted by a madman named Mohammed Azis (David Gant), who keeps a harem of captive sex-slaves aboard his luxury yacht off the coast. His power and wealth have enabled him to keep drugging, raping and killing young women in anonymity for years, but David finds an ally in a knife-wielding Spaniard (Roger Pera) whose own sister was abducted. Events come to a chaotic climax as they prepare to storm the boat just as Robert arrives to conduct a drug deal with Azis and Georgie faces a traumatic ordeal.
“Geezer cinema” has been a blight on British filmmaking since the early successes of Guy Ritchie and Nick Love. This same leery, laddish tone lends Slave an unpalatably misogynistic edge, what with the abuse of the captive women shot as a titillating MTV-style rapidfire montage of lips, hips, buttocks and orgasmic moans. Worse yet, the plot more or less endorses Robert’s contemptible view of women as money-grabbing sluts (“Women don’t love. They nest with the richest prick they can get!”) We see all of Azis’ captive bikini bombshells happily complying with his whims, whether snorting coke, begging like dogs or performing oral sex. This includes the Spaniard’s sister Sofia (Lydia Ruth Lopez) whom he discovers now enjoys being queen bitch and abusing the other girls. As if to underline the point, when our would-be heroes go in all-guns-blazing, they seem unconcerned the very women they set out to save are killed in the crossfire. In fact, the whole “captive sex slave” angle is mere window-dressing for the film’s real theme, which is whether David can “stop being a pussy” and find the same killer instinct as his dear old dad.
Expanding their short film Wish You Were Here (2005) to feature length, prolific producer turned debutante director Darryn Welch and scripter Brett Goldstein - who cameos as the young Robert Dunsmore caught in bed with three nubile Russian hookers (screenwriter’s perks, eh?) - tap a similar vein of xenophobia mined by Hostel or Turistas (2006), wallowing in the same sex and drugs party scene they hypocritically condemn. The script goes out of its way to remind us Azis is a Russian who has only adopted a perversion of Islam, but Muslims will be justifiably offended by his distorted credo - raping then “punishing” women for their “sins.” As a director, Welch has style to burn even though his relentless visual trickery dilutes whatever emotional impact the story might have had.
American lead Sam Page is an affable presence in his many television roles, notably opposite James Woods in legal drama Shark, but is here steamrollered beneath an array of ranting, suntanned Brit hard men. Similarly wasted is Natassia Malthe who has carved an endearing niche for herself as a gutsy warrior-babe in genre movies from DOA: Dead or Alive (2006) to Skinwalkers (2006) and Knights of Bloodsteel (2009), but given no chance to register as anything beyond a sexy cipher. The film concludes once again extolling Robert Dunsmore’s mantra, implying it is better to be a mucho macho, bang ’em and leave ’em man than enjoy a stable relationship. British comedian Mike McClean makes a surprise cameo as the remorseful captain of the “White Arab’s” ship, as does celebrity cannabis enthusiast and author Howard Marks who plays the seedy club proprietor, and remarkably gives the best performance in this film.