It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In the world of crime novels, the “police procedural” is a subgenre with rigid ground rules. The classic procedural doesn't much care who's good or bad, what's right or wrong: It cares only about the methods by which the police investigate the crime. The best of them are so specific in their attention to details that they even seem to transcend cultural boundaries. Ed McBain, the hard-boiled author of the 87th precinct novels, once wrote a thriller named King's Ransom, which was filmed in Tokyo by Akira Kurosawa, the great Japanese director, as “High and Low” in 1963. The focus was still on specific details of police work: tracing stolen cars, narrowing down a list of suspects, examining witnesses.
There is a subset of the classic procedural that is a good deal more flexible, however. You could call it the “civilian procedural,” in which the investigative work is carried out by reporters, lawyers or zealous laymen instead of by cops. “True Believer” has lawyer James Woods solving an eight-year-old murder, and now here is “Grievous Bodily Harm,” from Australia, with a freewheeling investigative journalist on the trail of an obsessed killer. The basic difference between the two kinds of stories is that the cops start out as hardened professionals and come to care deeply about the case, while the civilians usually get involved out of emotion and end up cynical.
Take Tom Stewart (Colin Friels), the ace crime reporter for the Australian, for example. He exists in the shadow-world between crime and law, and “Grievous Bodily Harm” opens with a sequence in which he essentially steals the loot from a bank heist from a dying robber. Then he gets involved in another case. A series of murders have been committed, and they all seem to lead back to the same man.
Because the movie uses an omnipotent point of view, we know who the man is. His name is Morris Martin (John Waters), and he is still obsessively in love with a beautiful blond hooker who died, apparently, in a traffic accident in Paris. One night he spots her in a disco, however, and his attempts to follow her lead to the brutal deaths of anyone he suspects is covering up.