An independent film, Descent came out in 2007, starring and produced by Rosario Dawson. Why have the collective We, duh movie-going/renting audience, not heard of this movie considering it stars someone of Ms. Dawson's renown? A damn good reason: It's not very good at all. Maya (Dawson) is an intelligent, shy, introverted, dating/relationship-less college student. We learn this because Maya is on the phone talking to her mom and she "invents" a nonexistent beau for her mom's benefit. First off, Ms. Dawson seems--looks--too self-assured (and a little too old, but that's not too big a dealbreaker) to be this doe-eyed character, and we all know that women as beautiful as Dawson are all-too-often in real life these wallflower-ish characters. (To put it a little more plainly, my Inner Guy chortled, "Yeah, right! Gals that look like her are lonely!" If you believe that Dawson, who wasn't even nerd-ed down for the role, could be such a character, then you'll likely buy Sandra Bullock as the snorting ugly-duckling FBI agent in Miss Congeniality.) Fast-forward a little: Maya meets Jared (the appropriate-monikered Chad Faust...that's right, Faust), a smug preppie-jock type that might as well be wearing a T-shirt or button saying, "Smooth-talking Sociopath." (In horror films, the equivalent: When someone or a group of people are lost on a nasty rainy night, they ask directions from a hunchbacked, clubfooted fellow that looks like Ernest Borgnine with a cleft palette---naturally, they follow his directions and end up with their heads mounted on a demented hillbilly's living room wall.) Maya rebuffs Jared initially, but his "charms" wear her down and she goes on what seems like a nice date with him. (It's the "nice" ones you have to watch out for. Booga!) As we can see lumbering up Fifth Avenue, Maya is date-raped. (Fade To Black.) Does Maya report him to the police or campus authorities? Does she get counseling? Does she even confide in her (female) best pal?
We never find out. Maya becomes withdrawn. The guys she works with think she's a...well, what else do white good-looking college-age guys say to each other when a lady is withdrawn or distant? ("She's a ______, haw, high-five me, guys!") Why, they're insensitive jerks, of course! (We're all scum.) Maya takes to hanging out in a shadowy techno/house-driven dance club & begins her initial "descent", and...well, it's hard to say what happens. It's hard to say because it's hard to SEE, literally--it's implied Maya gets sucked into an underworld of artsy-fartsy-spooky-kookie types, drugs, and casual (group?) sex, but like many of these clubs, the lighting is low and/or intentionally blurry. Plus we never really see Maya ACTUALLY participating. OK, director/writer Talia Lugacy, lemme get this straight: You'll show your central character getting raped but you won't show her WILLINGLY engaging in acts of drugging & casual sex? She also falls under the "spell" of Adrian, a Svengali-like club DJ who's muscularly ripped to Infinity. Unlike Taxi Driver, Descent doesn't believably or compellingly depict Maya's descent into mental/emotional havoc, or, also like Taxi Driver, into an avenging angel. SPOILERS AHEAD. Maya encounters Jared again. She lures him to her boudoir, she chains him to her bed and then has Adrian come in and administer "payback" upon Jared in the form of "up his aisle." This scene seems to go on forever and is more graphic than Maya's violation. I also got the notion that maxi-stud Adrian was relishing his application of "justice" for more than just Maya's sake. The last shot in the movie is a tear falling from Maya's eye (while Adrian and Jared are still "engaged"), and the downcast look on her face is NOT one of victory or satisfaction.
I may've made Descent seem "better" than it is. In suggesting the concept of revenge as ultimately unsatisfying, that a victim could eventually become what s/he despises in their victimizer--in that sense, Descent is a "success." As a movie, with Dawson miscast, with zero convincing character development, the gosh-I-wish-I-were-Stanley-Kubrick camera angles, drab lighting, a predictable storyline, the "white men suck" conceit (Did I mention Adrian is African-American? Whoo, get that honkie's hiney, Adrian!), trivializing important subjects (date rape and vengeance), and pacing that feels like waiting in line at the Post Office two days before Christmas, Descent is poppycock, err, I mean, arty crap of the lowest order.