Written and directed by B. Luciano Barsuglia, Amber Road takes a look at the depraved and dangerous things that happen on the dark web. While it is hardly the first film to explore such a thing, the filmmaker offers up several twists that give a fresh take on the revenge thriller. But, are the story swerves enough to keep viewers engaged the whole way through?
Amber Road is a site on the dark web where unscrupulous people pay to watch folks be murdered. The three people who organize each murderous session are Hades (Robert LaSardo), Pluto (Tom Sizemore), and Atropos (Crystal J. Huang). Their latest exhibition made them a killing, so to speak, so they have big plans for the next outing. Said plans involve their go-to murderer, Pauline (Rachel Riley), torturing James (William McNamara) and Mary (Janet Wang). The couple is not sure why they’ve been targeted, but the truth is revealed in due time.
Meanwhile, Emma (Elissa Dowling), a cop on leave, is performing her own investigation into Amber Road. Then Deke (Jed Rowen) shows up, hired by interested parties to look into the disappearance of James and Mary. Emma tells him what she knows, but her story and what Deke actually is doing run deeper than either realizes.
Amber Road has a slight torture porn bent to it, but it does not fall into Hostel territory. That isn’t to say there is no viscera on display, as Barsuglia does indulge in the blood when watching Pauline (and her cohorts) work. The bloodletting looks decent, all things considered, but it is thankfully not the sole focus or point.
“…a site on the dark web where unscrupulous people pay to watch folks be murdered.”
As an independently produced feature, the acting is a bit all over the map. Rowen, as usual, is a stalwart and very dependable. Riley shines as the killer with shockingly deep motivations. Dowling sells the gravity of the situation well.
Unfortunately, McNamara and Wang are meh, at best. Neither of them is convincing as they are being maimed, nor do their anguished cries fuel the stakes. It is frustrating because what the film is ultimately about heavily revolves around them. But, as already made clear, the rest of the cast picks up their slack.
The driving force behind Amber Road and its story is the editing. Jennifer Noonan expertly cuts between each storyline (and timeframe), slowly drawing out the mysterious reveal until the tension is palpable. While the production values look cheap, the lighting especially, Noonan’s finely tuned work hooks audiences and keeps them engaged throughout.
Amber Road cleverly hides its true purpose until the end. The editing maximizes the mystery and tension, while most of the cast delivers compelling, intense performances. While the plot may not seem to be anything new, just wait until the end; Barsuglia has several surprises in store.
For more information about Amber Road, visits its official site.