Friday, September 20, 2013

Movie with Abe: A Single Shot

A Single Shot
Directed by David M. Rosenthal
Released September 20, 2013

Some actors have different personas based on the kinds of films in which they appear. Sam Rockwell has floated between comedy and drama recently. In his less serious roles, such as “The Way, Way Back” and “Choke,” he has excelled as a vibrant, funny individual whose lackadaisical alternately charms and repels those around him. In his dramatic performances, such as “Moon” and “Conviction,” he usually portrays a less appealing, more introverted loner. In the case of the new thriller “A Single Shot,” the latter is truer than ever, and it’s difficult to latch on to Rockwell’s lead performance and the film as a whole.

Rockwell stars as John Moon, a disgruntled West Virginian hunter who lives alone after his wife (Kelly Reilly) left him and took their young child with her. John’s life is filled with unscrupulous people, like the shady town lawyer (William H. Macy) he hires and the ex-con boyfriend of his wife’s babysitter (Joe Anderson). His life takes a turn for the worse when, in the middle of an illegal off-season hunt for deer, he accidentally shoots and kills a young woman, and makes the irreversible mistake of taking the big bag of money he finds near her body.

From that point early on in the film, “A Single Shot” turns into a moody, paranoid movie where John is constantly crossing paths with people that may or may not be out to get him. His gruff exterior helps up only to the extent that he doesn’t open himself up to kindness, and therefore doesn’t easily fall prey to anyone who might want to lure him in. The methods of his new enemies, however, match his own style, and there is a certain brutality to the pursuit that is disturbing to watch and extremely unsettling in particular moments.

Rockwell’s performance is committed but far from appealing. His face hidden beneath an unkempt beard, Rockwell is not always recognizable, but it adds little to his character for him to be so antisocial. The other actors in the cast, such as Reilly, Ted Levine, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Wright, and Melissa Leo, have had much better roles in the past, though Macy is both compelling and creepy as John’s new lawyer. It’s difficult to connect to any part of “A Single Shot” and easy to be put off by its content and the unfortunate trajectory of its main character.


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