Thursday, September 05, 2013

Gathr Previews screening: A Single Shot

I'm sure that the "preview screening attendance report" bugs the Gathr folks by now, but this week's was so peculiar as to bear mention: I saw two other people buy tickets, and even walked around the theater so I wouldn't be climbing over them to get to my customary third-row center seats, but a few minutes before the movie began they left - I figured for the concession stand - and unless they decided to watch the movie from the balcony, didn't show back up. I gather this is already playing on VOD, so maybe that can explain the low attendance of a movie with a cast that should attract some attention (not actually being on the marquee when I got there probably didn't help), but this is disheartening, especially since it's hard to tell the movie is only so-so until after you've seen it.

One other factor that might play a role, I fear, is presentation. The guys at the Regent are all quite pleasant and friendly, but I'm guessing that they're showing these off a Blu-ray player rather than a DCP set-up (an expensive upgrade for a venue that only shows a movie about twice a week), and the image was fairly dark. There are a lot of scenes that are a little harder to see than you might expect, including one or two where I think we're supposed to read some text that is tough to make out. Plus, I saw a preview for the movie before The Grandmaster the night before - a theatrical release is scheduled for the 20th - and what AMC Boston Common put up on screen was a lot brighter, and they're not exactly known for cranking the bulb up as high as it can go.

I like the Regent, and want cool film programming there - it's a rare place I know I can reach with plenty of time given my commute - but I honestly don't know how much longer this series can continue there. Is anybody going to show up when I skip Zero Charisma in a couple of weeks? This series seems like it would be a really good fit for the Coolidge's screening room, but I just don't know how to get people to this location for these movies, especially if Gathr as a whole is just not taking root in the area for anything but screenings of Girl Rising.

A Single Shot

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 3 September 2013 in the Regent Theatre (Gathr Preview Presents, digital)

There are two general ways a "bag of money" movie can go: Navigating the intricate set-up that is revealed through a constant series of revelations and double-crosses that the anti-hero must navigate in order to keep the cash that has fallen into his lap is generally the primary activity, but giving the audience a good look at the desperate environment people will kill to escape can occasionally eclipse it. A Single Shot does each passably well, even if it doesn't necessarily achieve greatness in either.

The man who stumbles upon this windfall is John Moon (Sam Rockwell), who could use some help: His wife Moira (Kelly Reilly) has left him with their baby in tow, and his best prospect for employment comes from Cecile (Ted Levine), the man who bought his family farm after the bank took it. His friend Simon (Jeffrey Wright) refers him to a lawyer (William H. Macy) to deal with the first problem; for the second, he's living off the land, poaching. That's when he finds the dead girl, and while trying to hide her body, the box full of money.

Naturally, there are plenty who would rather John not keep that money for himself, and perhaps one or two folks whose good feelings he would like to reacquire. The great examples of this genre build a web out of those strands such that it's hard to pull on one without disturbing another, and writer Matthew F. Jones (adapting his own novel) does that fairly well in spots. There's one section of the structure that looks fairly elegant, for example, while others seem held together by flimsy coincidence. Other parts simply come loose, requiring replacements before the finale. It's not the ideal thriller design, but is acceptable enough because John's never going to be the sort of character that is going to outwit his enemies.

Full review at EFC.

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