A Single Shot

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a single shot

Sam Rockwell, yet again proving he might be one of the best actors around.

In movies, hunting scenes don’t turn out well. This starts with John Moon (Sam Rockwell, from the movie Moon) chasing a deer, and accidentally shooting a woman that is in a hidden tent in the woods. As he watches her die, he discovers she has a lot of cash. In one of many idiotic moves he makes in the first 15 minutes, he hides the body in a nearby dumpster and takes the cash.

He then goes to visit a local lawyer (William H. Macy) that wears bad blazers and bad hairpieces. Macy seems a little shocked by the hundred dollar bills he casually throws on the desk asking for him to delay the divorce his wife (Kelly Reilly, Flight) has asked for.

As we saw when James Brolin found money in No Country for Old Men and Bill Paxton in A Simple Plan – the bad guys end up coming to look for it. And since it’s in the backwoods of West Virginia, we get lots of foggy scenes and atmosphere. Yet the movie never captures the magic that Winter’s Bone or No Country  had (and I wasn’t even the biggest fan of No Country). It certainly tries to be a Coen brother’s style noir picture. It’s based on the novel by Matthew F. Jones, who also wrote the screenplay.

Rockwell’s performance is solid, but when is it not? He could be the best actor working today. He blew me away in The Way, Way Back, Moon, Seven Psychopaths, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke, Everybody’s Fine, Snow Angels and Frost/Nixon, to name a handful.

I have no problem with Jones writing the Moon character as a dimwitted hick, but it’s hard for us to ever root for him. The contrived plot just keeps getting worse and worse as the film goes. Even a scene that had a chance to be original and interesting – him going to the home of his ex-wife and catching the babysitter watching porn and having sex – just makes you wonder about all the people in this small town. Here’s an example of how the Coen brothers have bizarre characters mixed with normal folks. In No Country, Anton Chigurh is going to kill the first cashier he encounters. The guy is old, has a bit of a hick accent, but is normal. When Chigurh goes to the mobile homes and is dealing with a slightly snotty landlord – she’s a normal character. And the James Brolin character is one we can root for because, although he has no plans to give the money back, he at least returned to bring water to one of the dying bad guys. If you just start making every character in a movie bizarre, it takes away from the entire picture.

I’m also trying to figure out why, when Rockwell is asked a few times to give the money back (phone call, and rock thrown through the window)…why are there never directions on how to do this?

There are a few other character actors that are good – Jeffrey Wright as the drunken friend, and Ted Levine. Again, many of these characters all make such bizarre decisions, you stop caring.

Eduard Grau films some decent moody atmospheric scenes, yet a few were so dark it was hard to see things in the scene you would’ve liked to glance at.

There are a few phone ringing scenes that scare you, which is a good sign that the tension was built up nicely. Although, it did have movie pet peeve #12 regarding phone calls – when one party is done talking they just hang up without saying “bye.” I’m not talking about the bad guys, that’s to be expected. It’s when a friend recommends a lawyer for Moon to see. Once he’s done telling him to go see the guy, both parties just hang up. Why is a “goodbye” never written into movie scenes with phone calls?

The score came on a bit too thick in trying to add to the ominous nature of everything. Sometimes less is more.

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5, but I’m tough on films like this because they’re such great premises if done correctly. I’m one of the few that gave a bad review to A Simple Plan, which this reminded me a bit of. The movie is only playing at the Reading Gaslamp, which is a theatre you can always count on to have some of the smaller indie films.


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