At the Movies Blog
A low-budget noir picture.

This isn’t true love.

I had a series of emails from a filmmaker named Marcus Mizelle. He wrote, directed, produced, shot, and edited the movie Chameleon and he was eager for my take on it. We talked about some of our favorite noir pictures, and I brought up a great movie out of Australia called The Square (the Nash Edgerton film). He knew of Edgerton’s short “Spider” and was excited to watch it. I was excited to check out Mizelle’s picture. And for a first picture, with a small budget (under $7,000), it’s a decent effort. I’ll be looking forward to future films from Mizelle.

Perhaps the best thing in the movie are the various shots, and one of the local critics I used to argue movies with, thinks that’s the most important thing on screen. He doesn’t care much about the scripts. I’m the opposite. I want to sink my teeth into the stories, and dissect all the characters. And unfortunately, that’s where this movie falls apart.

Initially, I was digging the score. It created a tense, moody vibe; but after five minutes of hearing the same sound, my wife said, “Are they going to keep playing this music?!”

I laughed, realizing she was right.

Here’s the story. Patrick (Joel Hogan) pleads his case at a parole hearing, and gets out of jail. He starts washing dishes, and quickly beds an angry waitress. She informs him, “This was a one time thing.”

That’s setting us up to believe Patrick can seduce anyone. 

Former cellmate Dolph (Donald Prabatah), pulls the same card George Clooney pulled on Albert Brooks in the amazing Out of Sight. He tells him how he protected him in prison, and now he wants to make money. Except Dolph’s idea of making money is crime. The plan is to find rich men that have much younger trophy wives. Patrick will sleep with them, and when he goes out for a jog, Dolph will bust in and kidnap the woman. When Patrick comes back from his jog, he’ll contact the husband and admit he’s sleeping with the wife. He’ll tell him about the kidnapping and ransom demand for $50,000. Now, this is where the story really crumbles. First, I’m not sure why Mizelle thinks all wives of rich guys would just sleep with another man the first chance they got. Don’t any of these women love the men they’re with? Or don’t want to risk it? Or perhaps they’re already in an affair with someone else and much happier? Maybe they might think their rich husband is doing this as a test? Not to mention the fact that most women would probably find it odd that a man would just approach them at a restaurant/bar with another man. In Mizelle’s mind, these women all think it takes some cajones, which is what attracts them to this guy. Not to mention the fact that he plays it as a quiet, shy type. Had his character been like Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise, and was loud and charming, without a care in the world…perhaps I could see him walking up, talking fast and charming, and dazzling these women to bed.

You also wonder why the husbands don’t think this guy is in on it; or why they don’t pull a Danny DeVito in Ruthless People. When his wife (Bette Midler) is kidnapped, he says on the phone to the kidnapper “Keep her!” 

Especially since in this case, the woman is having an affair. And, not one of these men who shows up to pay the ransom, have the police working with them or following nearby. That means these guys get to keep doing this. Not one of these husbands shows up and smacks the guy around (or has thugs that do that).

In a montage that shows the women telling a police detective what happened, they all say “I thought he loved me.”

Uh, what? Why would they think that? They were literally on one date with the guy, which leads to another problem. This guy gets the women to agree to “go away for the weekend.” Not a single one of these women had a husband raise an objection to that? Not one of these women had other commitments they couldn’t get out of?

But back to the police interrogations. They all claimed he loved them and all gave the same description of the guy. That led me to ask…why is this movie called “chameleon”? He’s not changing his look at all. I think at one point his haircut changes slightly, but that’s it.

The movie gets a little more interesting when Patrick falls for Rebecca (Alicia Willis), who is married to a tech billionaire (Jeff Prater). This coincides with Pat wanting to end all this because he suddenly feels guilty, and…it turns out his partner is a bit rapey with some of the women that he has knocked out in the back of his van.

Side note: If you have a violent partner in crime, and you want to just do something “one last time” perhaps it’s best not to tell him that. That only gives him the chance to set you up, steal your cut of the cash, film you for blackmail purposes, yadda yadda yadda.

Well, there’s a twist that happens about this time, and it was kind of cool. That is, until I started thinking what all would be involved to make that twist plausible (I can’t explain that without spoilers). So even the cool twist ends up being frustrating.

The movie would have worked better if we saw more scenes of the two criminals together, since they had a nice intensity. At one point Patrick tells him he’s getting kind of rough, to which he sternly exclaims, “I ain’t running no damn day care or hospice!”

It’s something you’ve seen before, with a pushy criminal that has a violence that startles us…but that would have been fun.

It needed a scene that showed us why Patrick was falling for the woman he fell for; otherwise, we just don’t buy it. It also would have helped with how things played out at the end with his character.

1 ½  stars out of 5.

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