Over the last several years I have tended to avoid films that have an artsy or overtly emotional streak, or just a sort of high drama in general due to the fact that when it is poorly executed it is a massive waste of time and even when it is well done it most often only succeeds in making the viewer feel crumby. A Single Shot is just such a film with great potential to come out either way.
The film opens with a long, wonderfully shot sequence that sets the tone of the entire film (which is full of brilliant cinematography) when the hunter (Sam Rockwell) ends up mistaking a woman for a deer and shooting her which progressively leads to him discovering a massive amount of cash nearby that would seemingly appear to solve all of his past problems but, quite predictably, only starts a whole new string of them.
Great pains are taken to hammer home the stereotype of what seems to be hopeless Appalachia even though the film is shot in Vancouver, Canada (which provides an absolutely gorgeous setting). At times the film seems to exaggerate the meaninglessness of backwoods Americana; the accents and rough use of language portraying the ignorant backwoodsman is ceaseless giving a lingering feeling of melancholic hopelessness that we are supposed to believe is the great backdrop of rural poverty. At times in the film it was hard to determine whether or not the main character, ‘John Moon,’ was living in a poorly constructed shack or truly it was formerly his family’s home (the director seemed to want it both ways).
The dialog has the same issues as the dual natured portrayal of the home… It is so far gone into Hick-mode it cannot help but be surprising when one actually pays attention to the words and they sound craftily created by a New Yorker trying desperately to re-interpret proverbial country wisdom and re-insert it into the mouths of rednecks…
But… The movie kept a good pace after the long and somewhat drawn out introductory scene. Things escalate properly and the viewer is drawn into a series of twists and turns that keep a hungry mind occupied. Perhaps some of the archetypes and stereotypes can be forgiven due to the proper execution of the plot… And maybe, just maybe, there is something refreshing about a film that is willing to give some Black & White portrayal of events and avoid the seemingly boundless gray area that pop culture seems to obsess with these days when it comes to moral judgment.
The plot isn’t extremely new,.. Wealth leading to turning people’s lives upside down was the theme of the recent memorable film No Country For Old Men (2007) and Puff Daddy’s 1997 smash hit Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems…
And let us not forget William Robert Thornton’s A Simple Plan (1998)…
Overall, 8/10. I found it highly entertaining and it set a great pace; the detracting points of it were hardly enough to ruin it. I was surprised, actually, that it received such low votes on IMDB (5.3), entirely underrated and unwarranted.
—————— SPOILERS BELOW ——————–
Pay close attention to the ending… I am still mulling it over. I think the ending did a poor job of attempting to be ‘inconclusive’ more or less, because the conclusion should be obvious with regards to how they set up. Oh, brilliantly rich in symbolism, of course, and I can see why someone would want to take it that way… But one also asks: Why can’t we have nice things?!
Often times these movies are ruined in part by not letting the tragic story just conclude at some point… Why heap tragedy on tragedy? Oh, THE SYMBOLISM, of course, but isn’t that what the previous 100 minutes of the movie is for? Does the end always have to come to such dramatics?