J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Single Shot: Sam Rockwell Goes Hunting

Call it a simple improvisation rather than a simple plan.  Nobody thinks too far ahead or particularly deeply in this criminal morality tale.  As a result, there is a mess of trouble for everyone in David M. Rosenthal’s roughly passable backcountry noir, A Single Shot (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

John Moon is an unemployed loser, whose wife Jess has filed for a divorce.  Aside from some occasional farm labor temp jobs, Moon mostly puts food on his table through hunting.  While stalking his game one fateful morning, Moon inadvertently kills a young woman squatting in the woods.  Attempting to cover-up the accidental shooting he discovers a large stash of cash.

Now Moon has enough money to retain Pitt, the town’s slimiest lawyer, and throw some look-I’m-not-a-deadbeat-money Jess’s way.  Of course, this is not exactly the best way to maintain a low profile.  Suddenly, he is on Cro-Magnon drug dealer Waylon’s radar, in a bad way.  Everyone else around him is also acting rather suspiciously, but Moon is not so quick on the up-take.

Shot has a number of moody and atmospheric scenes that work quite well, but the tension always dissipates rather than growing and compounding.  Perhaps the greatest problem is its dubious premise.  An experienced hunter would never fire off the reckless shot that ignites this film.  Someone like Moon, who has been hunting longer than Rosenthal has been making movies, knows never to pull the trigger unless you are absolutely certain of what you have in your sites.

Still, Rockwell is convincingly slow-witted yet simultaneously slow-burningly intense as Moon.  It is largely his work that will keep viewers invested in Shot, at least to some extent.  William H. Macy is rather amusing as Pitt, but he might as well be credited as a “special guest star.”  In contrast, the potentially interesting Jason Isaacs is completely wasted as Waylon, buried under a Wookie’s worth of greasy locks.

There are no big secrets or revelations in Shot, so despite some well executed bits of skullduggery, there is little suspense overall.  Basically, it is a bad idea to come between and drug dealer and his illicit cash.  Nor is it a winning strategy to pick a fight with an anti-social mountain man who lives and breathes hunting.  As a result, everyone learns something in Shot, except the audience, who come in way ahead of everyone on-screen.  Just sort of okay but not great, A Single Shot opens this Friday (9/20) in New York at the AMC Empire.

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