Dahmer (2002) * *
starring Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Artel Kayàru (today known as Artel Great)
director David Jacobson
Usually, when writing a film review, I try to put personal preferences aside and be objective. I will not lie here though. Like probably the majority of the people who decided to see “Dahmer”, I watched it because of Jeremy Renner. I had my doubts and for a while pondered whether I should watch it or not. In the end, I decided to do so, after all.
Most people are familiar with the plot, at lease those from the US, as Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the more known killers. For those of you who aren’t: The film tells, from Dahmer’s presence when he is about 27 and in flashbacks cut in between, about himself, his youth, and how he basically became a killer. To describe him socially awkward would be the understatement of the century. He is just not able to establish social contacts with other people, even less to flirt with anyone. Being gay in addition - a fact about himself that he despises most, but of course can’t do anything about it - he finds “a way” to, after all, sexually interact with people. He goes to a local gay bar on a regular basis, mixes sleeping pills into drinks of attractive young men, lures them into the rooms in the back of the bar where he basically molests their motionless bodies. When he gets older, he does nothing less, except that he invites the young men home and … well, afterwards kills them.
It is an eerie, disturbing film - what other would you expect from a serial killer biopic? - but it’s not as half as creepy as it would like to be. It is VERY toned down - as so many dramas that mainly aim at the American audience - and by that you sometimes simply cannot take it seriously. You don’t see one disembodiment in the film graphically - one of the things Dahmer was notorious for - only one killing, and probably the most brutal thing is when Dahmer tries to strangle someone. I mean, compared to films such as “Silence of Lambs”, “Dahmer” is almost suitable for minors. I am being sarcastic, of course. What you do see, though, is Jeremy Renner, being naked a lot and involved in one-sided sexual activity. One more reason for Renner fans to see this film.
All factors aside that do not make this film a good one, I have to compliment Jeremy Renner’s performance. To sum it up: It is worth an Academy Award. I think that gives you an idea. I don’t know how Jeffrey Dahmer really was - and frankly I don’t care to know - but the way Renner portrays him, makes him a bit approachable and even human. You don’t support the things he does - who would? - but to a certain (and very small) point, you understand them.
All other supporting cast basically remains in the background - even the wonderful Bruce Davison as Dahmer’s father - but I think that was intended, to show what an outcast Dahmer was and how he was incapable of establishing any kind of relationship. One member of the supporting cast remains in your memory though - Artel Kayàru (or Artel Great, as he calls himself today) in the role of Rodney. He is the first victim of Dahmer’s who manages to somehow reach him emotionally. I will not spoil for you if he survives or not, but Kayàry portrays him wonderfully and very likeably.
To sum it up: A very tame, toned down thriller that, if you look at it from a higher point of view, is more a drama about a disturbed and emotionally poor fucked up individual. Absolutely not suitable for minors, and I only recommend it for the performances by Jeremy Renner and Artel Kayàru.