Director: Andrew Thomas Hunt
Screenplay: Andrew Thomas Hunt, James Fler, Michael Paszt
Cast: Shera Bechard
Producers: Michael Paszt, James Fler
Distributor: Filament films
Karma Balint is a shy, mute Russian woman whose sister Anna left for Canada with bright hopes of making some money for the two of them. But after being whisked away by the Russian recruiter of Canada-bound “housemaids,” Anna never sent the money, she never wrote back—she just disappeared. When Karma discovers that Anna’s body has been found in the woods on the outskirts of Toronto, the apparent victim of a Russian mafia hit, she sets off on a bloody, intercontinental trail of revenge that sees her face off—armed with only two hands, a calculating brain and a hefty dose of willpower—with some of the sleaziest elements of Toronto’s organized criminal underground.
Inspired by the stories of real human trafficking rings that were infiltrated and shut down in Toronto between 2004 and 2008, director/co-writer Andrew Hunt and his writing partner James Fler wanted to create a character who would both give voice to the silent victims of the non-consensual sex trade and stand as their relentless avenger. Model and first-time actress Shera Bechard is a revelation as the reluctant vigilante, and her role called for an intense regimen of acting and pole-dancing lessons, martial arts training, and dexterity with a variety of weapons. The resulting fight scenes are nasty and desperate, far removed from the slickness of detached Hollywood action choreography—but packing a decidedly bigger punch.
In contrast to rape-revenge films whose exploitive elements overshadow the psychological, SWEET KARMA takes back the genre as a woman’s domain—LIPSTICK(1976), HANDGUN (1983), THE LADIES CLUB (1986), POSITIVE I.D. (1987), DIRTY WEEKEND (1993), DEFENCELESS: A BLOOD SYMPHONY (2004). The sense of moral assertion and vigilante justice is a dominating factor in any kind of revenge picture, from those of Michael Winner to Walter Hill—but a woman’s revenge picture is a special thing. Women are vengeful creatures of a different nature. Nods to seminal rape revenge films MS. 45 (1981) and THEY CALL HER ONE EYE (1974) are abundant, but what makes SWEET KARMA unique is that Karma remains sympathetic by not disassociating from her actions—she doesn’t have a turning point where she buys into her own vampish alter-ego and ceases to be innocent. As such, SWEET KARMA not only marks a distinctive contribution to the rape-revenge canon, but signals a proud new wave of Canadian independent cult cinema.