The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
"Lana's Rain" tells the dark, hard-edged story of a brother and sister who escape from the war-torn Balkans, conceal themselves in a shipping container to travel to America, and try to survive on Chicago streets that have never seemed meaner. The picture is even bleaker than that: The brother is a war criminal who forces his sister into prostitution, and by the end of the film he's a low-life Scarface, with a stable of hookers, a big cigar, and a bottle and gun under his coat.
The story is seen through the eyes of the sister, Lana (Oskana Orlenko), who grew up apart from her brother and meets him again after many years on the eve of his escape from the Balkans. In a grisly prelude, the brother is having facial reconstruction to disguise himself, and is interrupted in the middle of the surgery; he wears an eyepatch through the movie, while his enemies and Interpol search for him.
Lana speaks no English, is naive, is dominated by her brother, and despises the life of prostitution. She is savagely beaten by one client. Darko (Nickolai Stoilov), her brother, keeps all her earnings, scornfully tossing her $10 for "spending money." She speaks so little English that she tries to learn the language from a Dr. Seuss book she finds in a garbage bin. Her only friend is an Asian-American sculptor named Julian (Luoyong Wang), who befriends her, likes her, offers her shelter, but cannot get her away from the insidious domination of her brother.
The film, written and directed by Michael S. Ojeda, shows a sure sense of noir style and a toughness that lasts right up to the very final scene, which feels contrived and tacked-on. It lives through the performance of Oskana Orlenko, who won the best actress award at Milan International Film Festival. On the basis of his work as the brother, Nickolai Stoilov has a future as a Bond villain. They are both never less than convincing, and Ojeda makes no effort to glamorize their lifestyle; even after Darko is running three or four call girls (advertising "Eastern European Beauties"), he lives in a shabby trailer in a neighborhood that looks more like Siberia than Chicago.