Tuesday 10 December 2013

Spare Real Gun (2013)

Director: Jayme Davis
Stars: Shayne Topp, Kasey Campbell, Damien Haas and Danielle Morrow
This film was an official selection at the Filmstock Arizona 2013 round of the revolving Filmstock film festival. Here's an index to my reviews of all selections.
I got a kick out of Spare Real Gun, which plays with very black humour indeed. It phrases itself as a rite of passage, where a newbie gets thrown in at the deep end and wonders if he'll be able to swim, but all done in a friendly manner, because this is just paintball. As the film begins, three veterans surround a table assembling their weapons like they've done a hundred times before. Ted, the new guy, completes the team of four, but he quite obviously hasn't got a clue and he smiles in the sort of way that people tend to do when they know they're out of their depth and hope that the help they need is about to be thrown their way to save them from embarrassing themselves. His new teammates seem eager to help, but it's all just a little off and the more you pay attention to the little details, the sooner you'll figure out what's going on when the title makes itself clear. The book on the table is the first hint but there are others as the story builds up to its big reveal.

The script is what makes this memorable, though it's certainly more about where it goes than in how it gets there. The acting meets the need without doing anything more, except for Ted, who does manage to sell some of the growing nervousness that crawls over him as everything escalates. However the cast are hindered by the technical issues that surround the piece. The light is overdone, flooding in from the window behind one of the veteran paintballers. The cinematography is hindered by the tiny room and a subsequently enforced lack of movement throughout, though the cunning shot taken from within a cat tree deserves kudos, even if I could easily figure it out. Most obviously, the sound is poorly synched to lip movements, which is the toughest hinderance to the actors. There are subtler issues too, like the fact that while the scene with the beer bottle is well done, it's clearly the only one on the table, so only there as a convenient prop for that particular scene.

The bad news is that all those technical issues are there. The good news is that Spare Real Gun is able to move consistently forward anyway, driven by the script and the neatly distracting way that it keeps ratcheting it all up another level. Many pictures with problems like this can't survive them, but this one may well be an exception for most viewers. Whether you're going to like this or not is far more likely to revolve around your sense of humour than your sense of aesthetics or how much your OCD screams at you because of the sync issues. This is not politically correct humour, the character of Julie intended to mess with our assumptions rather than to throw in a token girl, but it's funny stuff. It's edgy but much safer and more enjoyable in a fictional setting like this than as a set up on a reality show, where I could totally see it be reenacted. It also benefits from knowing its limitations and keeping it short. At only five minutes, our tolerance for issues is tested; any longer and they may have become showstoppers.

Spare Real Gun can be watched for free on YouTube.

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