Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Directed by: Hans Herbots
Starrings: Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts, Johan van Assche
When it comes to depicting violence and brutality on the big screen, how much is too much? It’s a question that many of us are likely to have pondered at times when watching certain films, and is liable to be one that regularly troubles your thoughts when watching this tough and trying police procedural.
Similarly to last year’s The Keeper of Lost Causes, the imposing shadow of The Killing and other small screen sensations from the Nordic noir genre loom large over The Treatment. Indeed, by the time director Hans Herbots’ adaptation of Mo Hayder’s bestselling British novel eventually reaches it conclusion, you’re left with the sense that this sprawling story would have been much more suited to the televisual structure.
What we have here is two meaty, multi-layered mysteries playing out simultaneously over 125 brain-battering minutes. Linking it all together is Detective Inspector Nick Cafmeyer (Geert Van Rampelberg, generically gruff and unshaven), a man with a successful career and bright prospects for the future. However a dark cloud hangs over Cafmeyer, the unsolved disappearance of his younger brother who was snatched when Nick was nine. Now Nick finds himself regularly harassed by a known sex-offender (Johan van Assche) who was once the prime suspect in the case. But if that wasn’t enough, another local young boy has just gone missing and soon a massive manhunt begins with Nick, spurred on by his own past, leading the charge.Pitching itself somewhere between the taut terror of David Fincher’s Seven and the malicious menace of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, The Treatment does at least succeed in harnessing the raw relentlessness of the filmic formula, even if it never succeeds in being inherently cinematic. Herbots lays on the tension thick and fast, particularly during the first half, smothering you with such force that your heart starts to pound so heavily it could burst from your chest. The austere atmosphere of unremitting dread, furiously enhanced by Frank van den Eeden’s frequently frantic and chillingly textured handheld photography and Wiegel, Meirmans & Klaassen’s feverish score, is potent, pummeling, and likely to leave you squirming in your seat as the investigation progresses and stakes continue to rise.
As the story strays further into murkier and more twisted territory however, the palpable pressure begins to dissipate and is replaced by a grueling unpleasantness. Herbots comes across as disconcertingly desperate to shock his audience with gratuitous violence and graphic imagery. But, as the story submerges itself within the murky waters of pedophilia, he’s more likely to sicken and leave you questioning the limits of what needs to be seen on the screen.
This nastiness extends to Carl Joos increasingly stale script. As the narrative turns its attentions on to the mentally unstable and enters uncomfortably exploitive realms, The Treatment’s solid start dissolves into something disabling and desensitizing.