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Total running time 91 minutes. Re-make from a short film by Nick Tomnay (The Host). Rated R in the USA for language, some violent content and brief sexual material. USA 2009. Director Nick Tomnay. Cast: David Hyde Pierce (Warwick Wilson), Clayne Crawford (John Taylor), Nathaniel Parker (Det. Morton), Helen Reddy (Cathy Knight), Megahn Perry (Simone Demarchi), Joseph Will (Det. Valdez).

Plot

I saw this movie in Berlin last night. It was running in the Comedy Film Night. It’s a small festival that aims to put a spotlight on small budget independent comical movies. I was longing to see this movie – like everybody else would be who’d been waiting for such a long time for it to finally come to your local screens.

Actually to describe “the” plot is a mission impossible; no it’s a mission impermissible. Some ads say that it is about a criminal on the run who cons his way into the wrong dinner party where the host is anything but ordinary. Well, that’s at least one of the five plots that are cramped into the film to put it more precise. And I’m also not quite sure whether it’s such a good thing for the movie-enthusiast to give you a whole plot outline here, because actually the movie stays interesting because of all the twists and turns it makes. To give them all away is an inexcusable faux pas. And since we do talk about the perfect host here, I won’t play with fire. Be my guest, take your seat, don't choose the red and stay hungry – so to speak.

Review

The strength of this movie is also its weakness. I’m talking about the structure and method in which Nick Tomnay takes us through his storyline(s) which is disturbing (as it should be), but also for the educated movie geek a bit too obvious in its thoroughly designed and intended effects. Don’t get me wrong, especially the intro sequence when John Taylor is at large is done masterfully. It is high entertainment that too many twists of fate meet the master plans of the main character, and yes indeed in all the brutality that’s on display here, Tomnay makes us realize the funny side of it all. There is something strangely wonderful in the way the script arranges the sheer coincidences of the clash of – I actually should have refuse to call him that – helpless victim John and the wilful power of the mad-man Warwick.

I’m buying all of that, as well as the undone riddle until let’s say two-thirds of the movie have passed. But on top of that, in the last third, Tomnay tries to put yet another twist of fate element to his larger than life story and that’s where it starts to get a touch of hyper-scripting, it starts becoming over-loaded with deus ex machinas.  

May I say that as a whole it is an intellectual movie puzzle, plays with horror, thriller and comedy elements and it does keep you in your seats until it’s over.  It’s a brainy stop-and-go, it does work to a certain degree, but not very satisfactory towards the end. The finale comes in far too flat compared to the former level of mental-health-check-ping-pong and Taylor’s revenge on Warwick is too artificial, too lengthy, too obvious to really enjoy. It seems to me that by all means, Tomnay needed to have an ending to it but couldn’t close the script in the same smart way he started it. It's also not a particilar strong point to constantly change the point of view. You can literally see the filmmaker wading through well-known endings, one of them being “Taxi Driver” by Martin Scrosese… and you’re expecting the half-and-half funny word-pun “Be my guest” right there, but it doesn’t come. Dunno why but I can’t stop thinking of the brilliant words by Richard Burton who said that you have to start your Hamlet very quiet and slow, because when you’ve reached “To be or not to be”, you might get way overboard with it all. This film is sophisticated film-fan-fun, but it's not a constant skillfully movie debut.

Lest forget to speak of the masterful acting we can admire here - Clayne Cranford as the violent criminal who meets his match in the frightening psychopathic Warwick (played by David Hyde Pierce). Well I don’t have any problem recommending this film – also because of the great performances. Most of the film is a duel between them both, so the film is based on their interactions in order to work. And here it does work like hell. David Hyde Pierce goes nuts  and this performance shows what a great actor he is. Brilliant acting achievements by all, very convincing and thrilling, entertaining, disgusting, horrifying and amusing.

Nat Review

Nat plays Det. Morton, a typical American flatfoot. Note that please, no copper... He's nothing to do with glamorous Lynley at all. He’s a bloodhound, his teeth deep in the case and yet, he’s also very obedient and shy towards his boss. In fact this detective – quiet as he is – questions everything and to the very end of the movie becomes somewhat of a hero in distress. As a character a bit slow, but persistent. In that not too uncommon with a certain Jesse Stone, though he’s not that depressed. A bit reluctant to take risks. The way he alternates between respect and aggression is fascinating. An office man who checks all evidence right to the point where it starts to hurt and who obviously had his bad experiences in the grubby police jungle of L.A. A pity that the character has its main part in the much weaker last third of the movie.

A new side to Nat as an actor I haven’t seen anywhere like this as yet. A likeable unagitated and more than credible performance. He’s indeed extremely convincing with his American accent, not too artificially trying to be a native cop from the west-coast by trying to pull off cheap stereotypes or mannerisms.  A rock-solid plug for new character dimensions - in the anti-romantic-non-heroic-genre.

Status

Due to come out on DVD in Spain in early autumn 2011. Will have some local theatrical screenings in the USA from July1, 2011 and is also available on demand from May 27, 2011.

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