What’s immeasurably sad about some motion pictures is that they start out with a wonderful germ of an idea but somewhere along the way veer madly into some very uninteresting story departures. It’s hard to sometimes capture why it is a film fails to create some respectable noise. While it’s all too easy to point fingers instead of contribute to any creative process, there comes a point when every member of the audience either surrenders to such a picture or flat-out refuses to finish it. PRESSED is one such picture – it begins with a man forced by circumstances down to the end of his rope, and, disappointingly, it really goes nowhere … but along the way it tinkers with our emotions, always promising there’s a big delivery just around the corner, only to defy that expectation even in its finale.
(NOTE: The following review may contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of characters and plot. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Brian Parker (played with some curious reserve by Luke Goss) is a director of sales who starts his workday by being laid off from the big firm. Deciding not to go home and tell his wife and son, he instead goes to drown his sorrows at the corner tavern. As fate would have it, the bartender, Jimmy (Michael Eklund), is an old high school chum who offers Brian ‘in’ on a sure bet. Once Jimmy turns the unemployed man’s $500 into $5,000, Brian is convinced that maybe the business owner is a good thing. However, Brian’s $100,000 investment in a sweet drug deal goes horrible wrong when two crazy teenagers steal the car with his money in it, and now he has the men in an international drug cartel gunning for revenge!
For all of its failings to capture and maintain one’s interest, PRESSED does have a few sparks of imagination in it. For example, there’s a wonderfully Hitchcockian set-up – the average man who finds himself in the middle of something so much bigger than he is. Goss simmers as the lead, almost hinting that there’s greater history to the character, though we’re given none. And the two teenagers (played by Jeffrey Ballard and Tyler Johnston) tell an almost parallel story – Brian and Jimmy are old friends reminiscing about their high school days while Sam and Jesse are trying to find their way out of high school and into new lives – to the main story. About at the 40 minute mark, the stories of these four characters deliberately intersect in writer/director Justin Donnelly’s debut picture, and, from there, it kinda/sorta spirals out of control.
For all of his simmering, Goss’s laid-off director of sales never appears truly appears to understand the selling process as he’s fairly easily duped by everyone around him. Even when he’s given a prime opportunity to show he can deliver – there’s a brief scene where he tries to recover the stolen vehicle from a city towing yard – he never even shines the grizzled old woman who refuses his attempt. To further complicate matters, there appears to be little to no chemistry with his wife (the lovely Erica Carroll), and her scenes strongly suggest she’s only into their marriage for the money.
While Donnelly’s script only legitimately flirts with the idea of becoming a modern-day film noir (it’s an admirable attempt), I’d suggest his failure to flesh out these characters beyond a simple one-sentence description stalls the production. Of the teens, Jesse is the only one given any visible history (I found it the most relatable attempt in here), but it grows increasingly hard to care about characters who don’t even appear to care about themselves, much less one another.
PRESSED is produced by Donnelly Entertainment Group and Qube Film. DVD distribution is being handled through Inception Media Group. As for the technical specifications, the disc looks and sounds fairly solid, though there was some notable grain in a few very short sequences (artistic choice?). Sadly, there are no special features to speak of except for the all-too-traditional theatrical trailer, and that’s a bit of a disservice; I would’ve liked to have been given some minor insight into the making of the film if for no other reason than to give writer/director Donnelly (especially given the fact that this appears to be his directing debut) to sound off on his story and the process, but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
RECOMMENDED only for fans of noir who want to see a modern attempt fail to truly ride out the rails. PRESSED lacks any real pressure – yes, there’s a mob, but they’re only realized in the final 20 minutes – and Goss’s efforts to bring any humanity to his ‘fallen hero’ is hampered by a script that only suggests character development via flashback or exposition between two characters. No doubt, it’s the kind of film that audiences want to root for – after all, who doesn’t love a good film noir? – but perhaps writer/director/producer Donnelly wore way too many hats to see the forest for the trees. It’s not a complete failure – Goss is the type of actor you want to see find success, and Johnston appears to be destined for greater scripts with more maturity – but it teeters very close.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Inception Media Group provided me with an advance DVD screener of PRESSED for the expressed purposes of completing this review.