Actors: Shayne McKean, Robert Sullivan, Jake Bowtell, Sam Bowtell, Trish and Paul Kenny, Lewis Wetherbee and Andy Polwarth
|This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.|
It's far easier to list the many things that Wippell did right here than to track down some of the things he did wrong. The soundtrack is the first clear success, a dark and brooding electric guitar that sounds like it'll bring a storm in its wake and it does indeed. It's far more modern than the agreeably old school title card that suggests a film noir; the film is shot in black and white and uses expressionistic lighting, but feels newer than a picture from the forties. The title itself is a memorable one, though this doesn't reference Rain Dogs, the equally memorable Tom Waits song; nobody in this film dances with the Rose of Tralee. Instead, our unnamed lost man works through a brutal dance card, taking spins with neglect, starvation and eventually destiny, as an unwanted child who finds his way onto the streets where he joins a gang to survive. It's another man who gets to dance with Death though, after this child, now a vicious adult, beats him up and leaves him in a coma. This victim powerfully bookends the film.
Put together, they're a creature to be reckoned with, but of course the film firmly puts the reckoning in their hands. This man has done what he's done and he's had fifteen years to come to terms with why. I appreciated how thoughtfully the character was created; he's clearly not a good guy but he's trying to figure out how not to be a bad guy. He doesn't expect our sympathy, but he's sincere enough to gain a little. He wants to find a way to redeem himself but he's unable to do so. The scene where he tries is one of the most powerful in the film, where we know everything that's said and done even with nothing to hear except that wild, swirling guitar. He's merely there, the calm within a storm that's been a long time bottled up and waiting to erupt, but it's telling that for once he isn't the storm itself. The choices Wippell made in constructing this slice of dark poetry are astoundingly mature for such a young man. I plan to work through the rest of his output online while eagerly awaiting what he'll create at UAT.
Rain Dog can be viewed online for free at YouTube.