Starring: Mike Vogel, Danny Pino, Brittany Murphy, Brad Greenquist
Written by Alex Merkin, Jesse Mittelstadt, Julien SchwabDirected by Alex Merkin
If those who can't do teach, for the movie industry they simply bitch; many hopefuls and never-was will say of Alex merkin that he reeks of film school and threw into his movie every trick he learned to try and make a lame product look good. One thing though - it is a good movie and everything he threw in is refreshing in its capacity to keep you on the edge of your seat the whole 90 minutes. Why don't guys like him get entrusted with LXG and other big budget misfires? Oh, I know! because an independent movie allows the director to make it good without studio interference...
In a seedy hotel where one porter tries to maintain the illusion of sophistication, Terry is holed up in a room where he followed his fiancee, whom he suspects of infidelity. Blood is on the floor, a man is tied up in a chair, Terry is psychotic and Julian rushes in to help his best friend Terry but finds himself in a situation nothing good can come out of. What follows is a back and forth through a story where nothing is at it seems and appearances can lead anywhere we allow them to.
Merkin probably did learn one about films that he indeed applied to the letter, and quite beautifully: if your movie is little and you want big, make it feel big. From an incredibly well paced opening scene that sets the tone for wanting more to sharp editing and inspired camera angles, the film feels like a $30M studio offering, complete with a fantastic orchestral score that sets the viewer up for one hell of a ride.
As for the narrative drive, which jumps to multiple points of the story from start to finish, is avoids the usual linear feel of such devices to instead keep the suspense elevated and drop bombs more than once, best of
which the final twist that I can't help feel I should've seen coming but did absolutely not. Great performances by little known actors Mike Vogel (of CLOVERFIELD), Danny Pino (of TV's "Cold Case") and especially Brad Greenquist as the unsuspecting witness to the events only intensify the credibility of the director's tone and editing choices. And it's nice to see Brittany Murphy trying out her chops a bit, now that she's been kinda demoted off the A list...
Independent films often rhyme with long, brooding and somewhat boring, and especially with not visually appealing. Alex Merkin shows enormous gusto in overstepping these preconceptions and offers a thriller that puts to shame boatloads of the mainstream ones we've been getting from Hollywood for a long while. Highly entertaining, and just as recommended. Alex Merkin definitely makes my watch list.