REVIEW: ‘I Am All the Girls’ is Gritty but Predictably Unoriginal

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I Am All the Girls

South African director Donovan Marsh crafts an unsettling and atmospheric thriller in I Am All the Girls, delving deep into the murky and sinister waters of systematic sex trafficking. Loosely inspired by an actual event, I Am All the Girls delivers a slow-burn that slows just a bit too much and runs out of fuel when it counts.

Special Crimes Unit investigators Jodie Snyman (Erica Wessels) and her badass partner — also lover — Ntombe (Masasa Mbangeni) investigate a sadistic serial killer who may be linked to an international child sex trafficking ring. Pretty heavy stuff, and as the movie weaves its twists and turns, Donovan Marsh continually coats the film in dark and contrasty color tones along with a persistent score that’ll keep your heart thumping for most of the film’s 88-minute runtime. Marsh also utilizes some inventive and impressive camera work with gorgeous sweeping shots and a slew of tense handheld shots to boot. I Am All the Girls looks excellent, and its grittiness is used to tremendous effect; this feels like a thriller from David Fincher just without the brilliance of a Seven or Gone Girl.

 Erica Wessels turns in a solid performance and pulls off some impressive physical stunts. Her Jodie character strongly reminds me of Homeland’s Carrie Mathison, a work-obsessed yet dysfunctional professional who always has a hunch but rarely goes about it the right way. She’s fun to watch, and her chemistry with Masasa Mbangeni is sublime, a relationship that crackles on screen, and I just wish there were more scenes with them together. I Am All the Girls boasts a strong ensemble cast despite being your usual run-of-the-mill police procedural archetypes. The film knows it’s weaving a by-the-numbers thriller, but the slickness in which they do it is what kept me watching the whole way through.

 I Am All the Girls’ most significant offense is how predictable it is; without spoiling anything, I can pretty much say you can guess who the killer is by the 30-minute mark and possibly a touch before that. Not only is the big reveal a disappointingly lame reveal, but the execution of it was also underwhelming and so low-key that it happened without much urgency or prominence. It just sort of happened, and the movie rolled on. Such a big reveal should have resulted in a much bigger climax especially given the context and the characters involved. That being said, the events preceding this grand reveal are great slow-burn detective fare that should keep your attention for as long as you roll with it. The serial killer our lead is hunting is methodical and quite Dexter-like, a vigilante of sorts delivering cold, brutal justice for the missing and sexually abused children. The killer also leaves messages behind, carving the initials of the missing children’s names on the chest of the evildoers for the detectives to find and hopefully connect the dots.

I Am All the Girls takes us on a dark and moody trip to a side of sex trafficking we hardly ever get to see, and I am glad we seldom do. The film shows us the international side of things and the commoditization of young girls’ bodies, the sick nature of bartering girls for oil, and discarding the rejected like worthless trash. There’s a scene in which a Middle Eastern man arrives in a private jet just to pick up a passel of little girls to take back home with him, and it is as gut-wrenching as it sounds. However, our hero arrives to crash this party, but I won’t reveal what happens next as it is a tense-filled action scene in a film without many action scenes.

Overall, The slow-burn aspect of this movie might turn off some, but if you like atmospheric thrillers with a dark and gritty undertone, you’ll be right at home with I Am All the Girls even though it telegraphs its every move. It doesn’t hit the highs of more recent thrillers such as The Invisible Man or 21 Bridges, but there’s enough slick filmmaking here and a competent cast to entertain and ensure a good time.

I Am All the Girls is available for streaming right now on Netflix.

 

I Am All the Girls
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Overall, The slow-burn aspect of this movie might turn off some, but if you like atmospheric thrillers with a dark and gritty undertone, you’ll be right at home with I Am All the Girls even though it telegraphs its every move. It doesn’t hit the highs of more recent thrillers such as The Invisible Man or 21 Bridges, but there’s enough slick filmmaking here and a competent cast to entertain and ensure a good time.