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Saturday, 24 May 2014

Wrecked (2014)

Director: Kenny Colt
Stars: Kenny Colt, Lolita Gongora and Cody Loepke
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
In reviewing Blue and Conundrum, I highlighted how they were the two clear contenders for top honours at this year's IFP Phoenix Breakout Challenge. Both would have been worthy winners and both are films that will surely be screened often at local festivals, starting with Jerome next month. I stand by that but don't want to give the impression that there were no other films worth seeing at this challenge. While I wouldn't dare to say that it was a particularly strong line up, many entries contained aspects worthy of note, while a few raised an eyebrow or a laugh (or both). However only a couple of others stood out as titles that are likely to have any sort of shelf life. I've already reviewed Running Wild's Belly of the Whale, a powerful film spoiled only by some poor choices towards the end; now I'm covering the other, Kenny Colt's Wrecked. This one certainly shows some seams, but it's also a mature piece that highlights a solid progression from often seen earlier pictures like Last Call and The Worst Best Man.

Put simply, it's the best thing I've seen him do; perhaps not coincidentally, it's the first straight dramatic picture I've seen him do too. Most of what I've caught thus far from either him or from Cody Loepke, his frequent collaborator (and co-writer and screen adversary here in Wrecked), is rooted in horror, comedy or both, but this one's a dramatic piece with a piano score and not a single line of dialogue. Everything we see plays out silently behind that piano, less concerned with building a traditional story and more about inviting us to interpret one from the visuals. While the movie is only five minutes long, there are two clear sides to it. The literal side shows us snapshots of truth, while happily letting us make faulty assumptions. The experimental side blurs that by providing us with the lead character's perceptions of truth that are flavoured through his experiences. Here, the background mostly disappears as the lead's attention shifts internally for him to look back at memories and forward at fantasies.

This lead is never given a name, credited only as 'unkempt man', and is played by Colt himself. Unkempt Man is clearly not having a great time of it, trying to lose himself in a heady cocktail of drink and despair from the outset. Why is the question of the day and the answer is one that we figure out gradually, as we come to understand both the truth and the perception. I was especially impressed by how thoughtfully the script was constructed, especially with such a short time in which to let things play out. Visually it's interesting too, a very cinematic piece that would be tough to translate into other media. Parts of it are reminiscent of stage performance, for instance, but the entire picture couldn't be staged without, well, wrecking it. The restrictions of the challenge format work to the film's benefit too, as it would have been easy to let this run on for longer but it wouldn't have helped. It's strong at five minutes, lean and mean and cinematically solid. The longer it ran, the more diluted it would have become.

The script is stronger than the cast or crew, but they're stepping up. No dialogue means that everyone has to sell their characters visually, which leads to things being a little overdone. Colt has to carry most of it, having by far the most screen time, and he's not bad, doing particularly well at sustained seething though a little less well at throwing a believable punch. He shows some subtlety in the final revelation too. The rest of the cast have less opportunity in the spotlight so find that they're only able to provide what the script calls for rather than elevating it with something more. On the technical side, the script proves more ambitious than the crew can quite deliver. They do give it a good shot and make it easy to get caught up in Unkempt Man's story, especially as Colt's editing is a strong point, but they can't quite wish away all the seams in the greenscreen, fight choreography and shakiness. Colt and Loepke keep on improving though and I'm buzzed to watch it happen.

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