Movie Review: Iva Janžurová is Granny with a Shotgun in 'Teroristka' (Shotgun Justice)

Movie Review: Iva Janžurová is Granny with a Shotgun in 'Teroristka' (Shotgun Justice)

When the neighboring pub just won’t turn down the late-night music on the weekends, a rural Czech grandmother picks up a shotgun in Teroristka, a new Czech comedy-drama that proves satisfying enough even if it never becomes, as the local posters seem to promise, Granny with a Shotgun.

Titled Shotgun Justice in English on screen, but also listed locally as The Lady Terrorist (a more direct translation of the Czech title), Teroristka stars the wonderful Iva Janžurová as the titular grandmother who is forced to turn to violence when her municipality fails her.

Behind the blaring late-night pub is the big city (read: Prague) businessman Mr. Mach (Martin Hoffman), who isn’t just turning up the techno for fun: he’s trying to force the locals out of their village in order to buy up land for a development project.

He even steps up his efforts by creating a new sport: a moto-biathlon, which involves motorcyclists carrying armed hunters tearing through the village paths; one of them even murders a local pet dog, which sends elderly owner Eva (Eva Holubová) to the hospital.

And that’s when Eva’s friend Marie (Janžurová) decides enough is enough. Unable to enforce the law through local mayor Helena (Tatiana Vilhelmová) - who happens to be sleeping with Mach - Marie decides to take it into her own hands, and approaches ex-student and ex-con Trpělka (Pavel Liška) for help in obtaining a black-market firearm.

Because Teroristka is a (mostly) light-hearted Czech comedy, it never fully delivers on the premise of becoming a full-bloodied revenge movie a la Death Wish. Still, it packs as effective a punch as one could reasonably expect from this kind of whimsical production, and lengthy climactic scenes of Janžurová brandishing the titular shotgun ultimately deliver the goods.

A lot of the credit for that goes to Janžurová, who lit up the screen in Czech comedy classics like „Marečku, podejte mi pero!“ (“Mareček, Pass Me the Pen!”), „Pane, vy jste vdova!“ (“You Are a Widow, Sir!”) and „Čtyři vraždy stačí, drahoušku“ (“Four Murders are Enough, Darling”) and other films in the late 1960s and early 1970s that rate among some of the best Czech films ever made.

Janžurová, hasn’t been given memorable roles like those for decades, but writer-director Radek Bajgar gave her a meaningful part in his last feature, the excellent Teorie Tygra (The Tiger Theory), and does even better by her here; Janžurová isn’t exactly Clint Eastwood, but she makes for a wonderfully engaging avenging angel throughout the entirety of Teroristka.

Teroristka isn’t as successful a feature as The Tiger Theory, which layered a traditional Czech dramedy with a some deep thematic material, but it’s entertaining and thoroughly well-made nonetheless; special kudos to Jiří Hájek’s twangy revenge movie soundtrack. After only two features in addition to his TV work, writer-director Bajgar has established himself as one of the Czech Republic’s top mainstream filmmakers.

Still, one aspect of Teroristka left me cold: the pet killing, which is not exactly inappropriate given the premise, but insufficiently avenged. The only satisfying cinematic sentence for this kind of animal cruelty is death, but Teroristka seems content with a knee to the groin and a replacement puppy.

Teroristka is now playing with English subtitles at Kino Světozor, Cinema City Slovanský dům, and other Prague cinemas.

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