Thursday 5 January 2012

The Long Shot (2006)

Director: Paul DeNigris
Stars: Christopher Loftus, Christine Bierman and Michael DeNigris

After The Hard Way, which almost felt like a two minute clip from a longer movie, The Long Shot felt more like an entire feature crunched professionally down into nineteen minutes. It's a really ambitious picture however you look at it, not least that it's a long short. It has a large cast, which includes quite a few faces I recognise from the local film scene. While few of them get much time to develop characters, the script helps a surprisingly large amount of them do that. The story is a strong one with a clear progression, story arcs for more than one character and even room for a silent segment in which words aren't needed to explain what's going on. The camera moves well and there was obviously a lot of time spent in the editing room to segue the many cuts together. It's notable that the camera speed changes with the story: initially it's slow and smooth as things start to come together, but gets frantic when they go south again. It feels like it could be studied.

We follow Matt, a college football star fallen on hard times because of gambling. He owes two hundred large and he has no way out of the mess he's in. That's until Jim gives him a tip that he shouldn't ignore: just one more bet and he'll be free and clear. Of course, if it was that simple, this wouldn't run nineteen minutes and Matt gets to work his way through more ups and downs than you might expect in a feature length movie. I really liked this one. The dialogue is clever: often humorous, often serious and often switching from one to the other in a flash. The story is careful to set up certain expectations, some of which lead us in certain directions, others away from them, but all cleverly enough to ensure that the ending is both expected and surprising. The script was obviously crafted. A second viewing highlights many lines that make sense first time through but have double meanings revealed only with hindsight.

In fact, it's so consistently good that it's hard to find fault. Sure, a few performances may have benefitted from another take here and there, but it's obvious that everyone's having fun and that's contagious. Christopher Loftus is a capable lead, earning his only credit at IMDb, but he's outshone by the story he's careened through. Christine Bierman is good as his girlfriend but she isn't the focus of the picture. Michael DeNigris is a little tongue tied on occasion playing a gem of a character called Salvatore 'The Razor' Giletti, whose name alone tells you everything you want to know about him. He has perhaps more fun than anyone in the cast though, with a few asides that show great timing. In a much smaller role, Bivas Biswas shines as a bookie playing chess in the Arizona heat. The scale of the production means that they're all really part of an ensemble cast adding different textures to a solid story, which is the big winner here.

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