Tuesday 4 February 2020

Movie Review: A Single Shot (2013)

A suspense drama, A Single Shot explores themes of guilt and despair as one flawed man's life is forever changed by a moment of carelessness.

John Moon (Sam Rockwell) lives alone in a mobile home, deep in the woods. While poaching a deer he inadvertently shoots and kills a young woman. He hides her body then stumbles upon an abandoned ramshackle encampment where he finds and keeps a box full of seemingly stolen cash.

Hoping to patch up his marriage to Jess (Kelly Reilly), John follows the advice of his frequently drunk friend Simon (Jeffrey Wright) and reaches out to lawyer Pitt (William H. Macy), who is eager to ask questions more awkward than his wardrobe. Jess is not interested in a reconciliation and appears to be hanging out with the wrong types. John's loneliness and sense of guilt are further stressed when he finds himself under threat from creepy criminals Obadiah (Joe Anderson) and Waylon (Jason Isaacs), who want their cash back.

A backcountry drama, A Single Shot luxuriates in barely comprehensible accents and a hostile environment where tough terrain, uncompromising townfolk and seedy ex-cons co-mingle uneasily. The raw material threatens a potentially cold and calculating human-centred thriller, but director David M. Rosenthal is unable to harness the available elements into a satisfying whole.

The culprit is a weak script written by Matthew F. Jones as an adaptation of his own book. While John Moon is a compelling enough central character and Sam Rockwell brings him to life in an appropriately moody performance, most of the film's events are suspect. Moon is subjected to a campaign of intimidation that makes no sense upon just rudimentary examination, and the bad guys in the form of Obadiah and Waylon look the part but are otherwise devoid of context.

The third act defaults to plenty of violence and blood-letting, although Rosenthal does find a poignant resolution which almost salvages the entire film. After John stumbles into an opportunity to make symmetrical amends with an act of agonizing heroism, the burden of guilt nevertheless conspires to have the final say.

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