Review: A Single Shot
PLOT: On a solo hunting trip, John Moon accidentally kills a woman while shooting at a deer. With the discovery of her body comes another find, a box of money for the taking. Desperate, he takes the cash and covers up her death only to find that he is the one being hunted by a group of thugs who caught on to his secret.
To say Sam Rockwell is a great actor is an understatement. He is undeniably one of the best working today. There is something completely satisfying about watching him disappear into a role and this is true indeed about his latest feature A SINGLE SHOT. This Southern drama allows the actor to give a grounded and very effective performance as John Moon, a solitary man who accidentally kills a young woman while hunting for deer. This moody and twisted thriller follows Moon on a downward spiral as he is forced to make some very hard decisions. What is interesting about him is he is a very flawed individual who try as he might, cannot seem to adjust to those around him. This is especially true in regards to a wife and child who have left him in hopes to find a better life than he could offer.
Independent film director David M. Rosenthal presents this story with a hint of the Coen Brothers BLOOD SIMPLE as inspiration with its small town characteristic. There is a very serious tone here, albeit one without an underlying sense of grim humor. When the accidental killing turns up a little evidence in the form of stolen cash, Moon takes it only to find himself being terrorized by a group of bad guys intent on this poor soul’s destruction. Matters are made worse by the fact that Moon is trying desperately to hold onto his family – the reason he took the money in the first place. Much like a Coen Brothers film, the condemned hero must face insurmountable odds.
Rosenthal directs from a script written by Matthew F. Jones (based on his own novel). This slow-moving feature follows Moon very closely. Rockwell is in every single scene and he gives quiet command to this down-on-his luck hunter. The character driven story features little violence until the last half of the film where it is peppered throughout. For much of the running time Moon finds himself dealing with a frustrated, soon-to-be ex-wife Moira (Kelly Reilly) who left him and took their child the day he lost his job. Even when John finds Moira’s friend Carla (Amy Sloan) screwing around with her boyfriend Obadiah (Joe Anderson) while babysitting his son, the blame seems to fall on Moon’s own shoulders. This is as much a personal story for John Moon as it is a dark thriller.
In addition to Rockwell, this is a solid cast Rosenthal has collected. William H. Macy is perfection as a sleazy lawyer who is attempting to have Moon sign divorce papers. As well Anderson and Isaacs are fantastic as a couple of lowlifes who are connected to the stolen money and the woman in the woods. Why is Joe Anderson not a bigger star? This guy is an incredible actor in everything I’ve seen him in. As well, Jeffrey Wright is able to inject a lot of charm as one of the very few friends to Moon, another deeply flawed character in a world full of them. The women are perfectly cast especially Reilly as his wife. She is incredible here as she injects sincerity as a woman who wants what is best for her child. This could have easily been simply the bitch wife – and at times she is – but her performance is far more interesting than that tired cliché.
The minimalism on display from Rosenthal as well as Rockwell’s performance is an interesting choice to make. However as deadly as the consequences may seem there is very little in the form of tension or surprise. The story follows a familiar pattern – albeit an understated one – and the final outcome is obvious. At times there is a lull as we the audience are fully aware of what is going on much quicker than the leading man. It sometimes creates frustration rather than tautness. What gives this film its nuanced power is the strong casting and the moody atmosphere on display. A SINGLE SHOT is another reminder of just how fantastic an actor Mr. Rockwell is as he holds it all together with a powerful performance.
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