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Dustin Putman

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Nurse  (2014)
2 Stars
Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski.
Cast: Paz de la Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Corbin Bleu, Martin Donovan, Boris Kodjoe, Judd Nelson, Niecy Nash, Melanie Scrofano, Adam Herschman, Jeff Pangman, Katia Peel, Kathleen Turner.
2014 – 84 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for bloody violence, strong sexual content, language and some graphic nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 7, 2014.
If John Waters and 1990s-era Paul Verhoeven fused into a single person and decided to make a film, it might look a lot like future-cult-pic-cum-midnight-movie "Nurse," an obscene—and obscenely watchable—thriller in the "Single White Female"/"The Crush"/"Swimfan" vein. Inspired by a provocative photograph taken by Lionsgate marketing exec Tim Palen of an RN drenched in blood sans clothing, the studio quickly decided to fund a feature-length expansion of the snapshot. Written and directed by Douglas Aarniokoski (2012's "The Day") and co-written by David Loughery (2009's "Obsessed"), the completed result is sure to divide audiences between those who think it's terrible, those who think it's irresistible, and those who appreciate it for embracing its derivative "...from Hell" premise while cranking to eleven all of the most pleasurable base elements one will be hoping to find. "Nurse" is as crazy as a crap-house rat, elevated further by a performance from Paz de la Huerta (2010's "Enter the Void") that might be the work of an eccentric genius, but its close adherence to well-established tropes threatens, at times, to turn it into just another entry in a worn-out subgenre. It has enough offbeat sensibilities to sometimes separate it from the spate, but not always—and that ultimately might make the difference in whether or not it ever achieves camp-classic status.

"There is no cure for the married cock—except me." Leaving slashed-up bodies in her wake, All Saints Memorial Hospital "Nurse of the Year" Abigail Russell (Paz de la Huerta) prowls New York City's nightclub culture searching for unfaithful men virtually asking to become her latest victim. By day, she is mentor to fresh-scrubbed nurse newbie Danni Rogers (Katrina Bowden), with whom she develops an intimate, then lethal, obsession. When a raucous, roofied evening out together leads Danni to participate in behavior that, let's just say, boyfriend Steve (Corbin Bleu) would be none too happy about, she tries to brush it off as a big mistake. Abby sees things differently, at first manipulating Danni in a bid to get closer to her and then using photographic evidence and blackmail to destroy her life. As her devious actions escalate, bubbly new human resources administrator Rachel Adams (Melanie Scrofano) arrives, convinced that Abby is the spitting image of a childhood neighbor friend she once knew who had been sent off to an upstate psychiatric institute.

Much like its vicious, sexually uninhibited femme fatale Abigail Russell, "Nurse" (also known as "Nurse 3D" for theatrical exhibition) is off its rocker and proud of it. Taking blowsy story observances to a part-knowing/part-brazen level that provides a much-needed injection of shock value, director Douglas Aarniokoski gives his film a slick austerity punctuated by post-modern bawdiness. As the one-of-a-kind Abby, Paz de la Huerta knocks this deliriously villainous turn out of the park, giving herself over to a transformation that proves, at once, pervasively sensual and deliciously sick. Narrating the proceedings with a cutthroat point of view that has her waxing philosophically and carnally, de la Huerta gives this predatory character her all, guaranteeing that she will not soon be forgotten in the cinematic pantheon of onscreen psychos. At the same time, there appears to be so much going on beneath Abby's surface it's a shame the role couldn't have been developed and explored further. As is, she's a fascinating, complicated enigma.

Dynamically photographed by Boris Mojsovski with an emphasis on twinkling cityscapes and sanguine spatter, "Nurse" is a female-empowerment slice-and-dicer where the male specimen is depicted as a prurient, untrustworthy sort ripe for the slaughter. Danni's stepfather, Dr. Larry Cook (Martin Donovan), is an adulterous therapist who sleeps with his patients. Her boss at the hospital, Dr. Morris (Judd Nelson), is a lecherous scumbag long overdue for a sexual harassment lawsuit. Even Detective John Rogan (Boris Kodjoe) thinks nothing of bedding Abby and then coldly brushing her aside. All of this is seen through the biased eyes of a sociopathic go-getter with a long-standing grudge against men and an insatiable appetite for ladies. Taking what she wants and leaving behind the smoldering wreckage of her wrath for everyone else to deal with, the slinky, deranged, frequently bottomless Abigail Russell—and, for that matter, the fearless Paz de la Huerta—is the main attraction in a film that embraces its soapy, throat-stabbing goofiness but misses the boat on exploring her to a more psychologically textural extent. "Nurse" is more curiosity than home run, but it is a safe bet that no one will ever be able to accuse it of being boring.
© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman