I watch a lot of movies but I don’t usually review them. This makes “Irr?versible” unusual. This word, in fact, describes much about the movie and my reaction to it.

The movie starts at the end, with a death that the blurb proudly describes as “one of the most violent murders ever portrayed on celluloid” and then works backwards detailing the motivations for it and the complex relationships between the various characters.

It sounded like an interesting premise and I was looking forward to seeing it. Unfortunately I found it to be deeply flawed.

Let’s start with the simple stuff: the quick-fire, “street” language does not lend itself to subtitles, which, on occasion, makes the dialogue difficult to follow. The cinematography is such that the screen is often busy too, making reading the dialogue and seeing what’s happening hard work.

It’s not only my reading comprehension skills that are a problem.

The director decided to make each scene look like one take, with no obvious cuts. Great idea, but it might have worked better if he’d been able to keep the camera on a level. It swirls around in an uncomfortable, sickness-inducing loll. This effect gets less and less as the film progresses and might have been applauded as very creative if it had not been over-done.

And it might have been better received if the sound-track had not followed in a similar vein which, unfortunately, was not the case. Instead we are subjected to a 28Hz hum, which, apparently, is the same kind of sound produced by an earth-quake. This effect was added with the express purpose of getting people to walk out of the cinema.

Why deliberately make a film difficult to watch? Shooting difficult or controversial subject-matter is one thing, but driving people out of the cinema by making things physically unpleasant strikes me as odd at best. Not since McDonalds opened its first restaurant has this been considered good business.

The main issue I have with the film is that the director seems to have used jarring imagery, painful audio and a reverse-chronological narrative not to enhance an already interesting story but as a replacement for it. “Memento” is the obvious comparison point as it also runs backwards, however in this case it works. The lead character can only remember so far back which lends itself to the “backwards” story line, we learn what happened at pretty much the same rate that he does. With “Irr?versible” I’m not sure.

Also used to prop up the weak story-line is the excessive violence and sexual content. I’m no prude, I’ve seen some pretty violent films — I rate “Reservoir Dogs” highly and even “Baise-moi” wasn’t this bad — but this was too much. Does a rape-and-beating scene really need to last twenty minutes? Is it necessary to see someone’s skull cave in after a savage beating? (All in the first forty minutes by the way.)

Most of the best scary or violent films rely not on actually showing what happens but by building tension and suggestion. How much do you actually see in the ear cutting scene in Dogs? This film certainly does nothing to dispute my position on this.

Overall you have to ask yourself whether courting controversy with nausea inducing sound effects, drunken camera-work and excessive violence is a good substitute for a well-written script and more controlled direction. I say no, what do you think?