Unless Rosario Dawson is your dream woman and you'll watch her in just about anything, there's no other reason to suffer through this deathly slow treatise on date rape and its ugly consequences.
Maya (Dawson) is a smart 19-year-old college co-ed who seems to have everything going for her. But soon we discover that she's just out of a bad break-up, which makes her a little leery of dating other guys in her classes. That is, until handsome football star Jared (Chad Faust) makes a play for her at a party. When she falls for him, their first date goes well, until she says no to sex, and he rapes her. Thus begins her dark Descent into a mire of depression, alcohol, drugs, and sexual promiscuity. Slowly, the seasons pass (we know that, as they are noted as "chapters" of the story), and when classes start up again, she is in a physical and moral quagmire, barely keeping her life together. As the film ploddingly unfolds to its final disturbing sequence, Maya finally takes the action that she is sure will make her whole again, as she lashes out for revenge on her attacker.
Descent is basically a vanity piece for Rosario Dawson (she also produced the film), and she proves what filmmakers like Spike Lee, Barry Sonnenfeld, and Oliver Stone have already noticed--she is a talented actress with an amazing face. As Maya, Rosario Dawson believably transforms from a glowing young woman into a tormented and troubled person. Unfortunately, despite her active involvement in the production, the transformation is not particularly compelling, nor does it offer any new insights into the emotional devastation felt by rape victims. Chad Faust (best known for TV's The 4400) is also credible as the cocky jock who blithely takes her by force and expects no retribution for his actions. He also proves that he is a fearless actor, for Descent includes that taboo of American cinema: a full-frontal male nude shot, as well as later physical degradations rarely seen outside of pornographic films. The problem with the film is not with the acting, as the supporting characters are perfectly serviceable as well; the problem is with the writing and the direction, the combination of a distasteful, amoral revenge plot combined with extremely graphic sexual visuals (thus the NC-17 rating) that, worst of all, takes forever to unfold.
First-time feature-film director-writer-producer Talia Lugacy stumbles with her freshman outing as a filmmaker, creating a movie that only succeeds in making us wonder how she ever got it made. Shot mostly in dark rooms or shadowy nightclubs, with often incoherent and disjointed action, she has fashioned a story that moves in fits and starts, with long stretches of boring dialogue paired with pointed silences. Combine that with a plot that centers around visually (and aurally) disturbing rape scenes and also condones the idea of a victim's choosing to take justice for a violation way outside the confines of the law, and the end result is a movie that falters in every way. The only redeeming element of "Denial" comes in the last frames of the film, and that moment comes as no surprise. Overall, there's little here to recommend spending two hours of your life and $10 of your hard-earned money to experience it, unless your love of Rosario Dawson is so strong that you will forgive anything just to see her perform.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.