Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Another short ,as promised, but this is a little different to the usual film you'll find here on this blog.
There's nary a zombie, demon, spook, spectre or flesh-eating creature of the night to be discovered here.
No, instead this deals with men, with crime, with honour among the honourless. This deals with the darkness in the souls of men who see the destruction of other human beings as just a job.
And when you look at it like that, is there any worse horror?
This is a review of A Way Out.
Read on...

A WAY OUT (2014)

Dir: Jason Tostevin
Starring: Robert Costanzo, Adam Hampton, Brant Jones

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: This is a short, so I'll try not to spoil too much, but read on at your own risk.

The short follows two hard as nails mob enforcers, the grizzled and world-weary Vick (Costanzo) and his young, ambitious partner Reggie (Hampton). As the film starts Reggie is violently beating a victim at the behest of his gangster boss, Conway (an unseen Jones). After the pair are done with their business, Vick and Reggie drive away and talk — which is where Vick makes the shocking announcement that this is his last job. Wanting to break the cycle of violence and abuse that has haunted his family for generations, Vick has (at some considerable expense) bought his way out.
Vick promptly phones Conway to inform him that his final obligations have been met.
Conway thanks Vick, wishes him good luck in his retirement, then asks to speak with Reggie.
What he says to the younger man sparks a deadly sequence of events that zig and zag their way towards a heart-stopping conclusion...

WHY IT WORKS: This is a film that is all about plot and characters.
It isn't flash-bang camera trickery, stunning special effects and frenetic action to mask any shortcomings, for the most part it is two men sitting in a parked car — and it is utterly captivating.
Away from the sprawling gunfights of Heat or searing political statements of The Departed, this is a uniquely personal crime story.
The plot by Randall Greenland is deceptively twisted, but I can't discuss this without spoiling the various interesting detours it takes. Suffice it to say, this is a grand plot. However, as well as the storyline, it is the way in which the characters are written that makes Hands Off Productions' A Way Out so compelling.
With sparkling dialogue that quickly establishes not only the dynamic between the two leads but gives us some wonderful insight into exactly who these men are. A brief talk about a mattress shows us that Vick is a man who now values home and comforts more than anything else, while also revealing the inexperience and naïveté of the more physical Reggie. Above all else, it shows the mentor/pupil relationship between the two.
Every single line serves a purpose, there are no wasted words or bloating in the script. It is quite flawless.
Of course a massive contributing factor to making these characters so believable is the sterling work of the actors. A small cast (consisting of just two onscreen performers and a voice on a phone), this is very much a case of quality over quantity.
First, let's discuss the incredible work of veteran Costanzo. With a career that has spanned four decades and a filmography that includes the likes of Total Recall, Saturday Night Fever and Die Hard 2, this is a serious actor with plenty of experience delivering powerful, believable performances and he utterly nails it. Showing a wide range of emotions for such a brief runtime, Costanzo is gold. From pathos to humour, he can do it all and he is an invaluable asset to A Way Out.
That's not to say that Hampton is a weak link, far from it. An accomplished actor in his own right, he has a number of notable credits to his name and is the perfect foil to Costanzo. He brings a youthfulness to the role and his chemistry with the older man is scintillating and totally believable. Of course, he doesn't just work opposite Costanzo, he has some moments with serious emotional weight and he carries them fantastically.
Credit must also go to the voice work of Jones as the pair's diabolical superior. Hard, threatening and cold as ice, Jones nails the role. Very impressive indeed.
Now, I realise that the way I've described the movie makes it sound like all the quality is in the writing and acting. There is undoubtedly quality here, but it is not exclusive to these areas. The film is wonderfully shot, carrying a gritty realism but still boasting great production values. Director Tostevin, as well as editor Brant Jones (him again!) and cinematographer Mike McNeese have delivered accomplished and assured visuals to match the hard-hitting plot and entirely honest and realistic performances. It uses some fantastic tight shots to build up the claustrophobia and desperation of the situation, alongside some lengthy, steady and surprisingly still moments to ratchet up the tension.
Finally, credit must also go to the soundtrack, with some superb music choices — especially the choral number that plays during the film's closing moments. Extremely atmospheric and a perfect fit.
In short, A Way Out is a mini-gangster epic. With elements of Donnie Brasco, The Godfather and Reservoir Dogs by way of The Sopranos, this is a gritty and character-driven film that is more than deserving of your time.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? A Way Out is touring the festival circuit right now and has received plenty of selections. To find out when it'll be coming to a screen near you, head on over to the film's official Facebook page. Give it a Like too, I'm sure they'll appreciate it!

10 WORD WRAPUP: A well-written, brilliantly acted gangster story with real soul

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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