Title: Ms .45
Directed By: Abel Ferrara
Starring: Zoë Lund, Albert Sinkys, Darlene Stut, Helen McGara, Nike Zachmanoglou, Abel Ferrara, Peter Yellen, and Editta Sherman
What is there to say about “Ms. 45?” Abel Ferrara’s gritty look at vengeance is coming to a theater near you! Although the exploitation film was released in 1981, it was critically maligned as being too violent and completely trashy. The fools! “Ms. 45” is quite the opposite. The film is one of those rare instances that art and entertainment intersect in exploitation genre cinema. Ms. 45 is Abel Ferrara’s look at how violent acts begets violent acts in a continuous cycle of blood and gore.
The film opens with a fashion showcase in New York City in the 1980s. While New York has certainly changed since “Ms. 45’s” initial release, the film speaks true to any walks of life regardless of where you’re from. After a long day at work, the film’s central character Thana (Zoë Lund), a mute seamstress, is violently raped on her way home. But when she finally reaches her apartment, an intruder surprises her. But when no money can be gained from this unexpected mark, the home invader rapes her.
During the struggle, Thana kills the rapist with a clothing iron. Now with a dead body in her apartment, she has to think about how to dispose of it. While the start of the film is hard to watch, Thana is traumatized, as she starts to piece her life back together again. Armed with the .45 pistol from her attacker, Thana begins to on a killing spree, at first for protection, then for vengeance, and finally for pleasure.
The audience learns early on that Thana, who starts off as meek, begins to enjoy killing random men around New York City. It’s almost startling to see Thana make this transformation because we enjoy when she’s a violent vigilante instead. She chooses her victims based on how they treat women, but sooner or later she begins to choose men at random. When Thana starts killing for fun, it’s hard to sympathize with her or her victims. What started out as an act of protection, quickly turns into just another act of violence without any rhyme or reason.
Abel Ferrara paints “Ms. 45” with a fantastical color scheme that automatically draws you into the story and the world. The way Ferrara positions and uses the camera is masterful! From the early goings of the film, we see how men look at women and why a majority of its female characters are uncomfortable around them. There’s a certain artistic flare with dream sequences and an explosive climax in the way Ferrara tells the story. Zoë Lund’s silent performance adds to Ferrara’s tendencies, as the pair make a good combination between director and his muse.
Zoë Lund is outstanding in the film. While she doesn’t speak throughout its running time, you know exactly how she feels and what’s she’s thinking. It’s not mainly through her body language, but rather it’s through her piercing eyes. New German Cinema director Volker Schlöndorff once said about his 1979 film “The Tin Drum,” “A pair of eyes staring at you, projected on a large screen is what cinema is truly about.” If that’s the case, then Abel Ferrara marches to the beat of this drum. Lund’s eyes tell this story and should be something to behold on the big screen.
Ms. 45 ends with uncertainty. The idea that violence doesn’t end when the film’s story concludes is at the center of the film’s themes. The reasons behind violence are always justified, but never fully understood. While Ms. 45 is one of the bloodiest movies I’ve seen, the film stands as a perfect example of how exploitation films can be considered art.