A SINGLE SHOT Takes Aim At Rural America ... And It Ain't Pretty
Feb 14, 2014
Because all of those middle American hicks have got nothing better to do with themselves but to either (A) hunt or (B) sit back and watch the paint dry. Ain’t one of ‘em who’s got a respectable job. Ain’t one of ‘em showers regularly. Ain’t one of ‘em would ever vote for a Democrat. Why, even that form of English they speak? That ain’t English! Well, it ain’t English like you and I speak! They may as well be from some Third World country, what with their morals, their values, and their clinging to Constitutional respectability! It’s enough to make a Progressive write a novel, pen a screenplay, and release it to the masses for their consumption!
Is it any wonder that these films don’t make a respectable buck anymore? According to IMDB, this one didn’t even get anywhere near six digits. Maybe there’s a lesson worth putting on film, no?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
On the surface, John Moon (played by the reliable Sam Rockwell) hasn’t got much to live for. His wife’s left him. She’s taken his son along when she checked out. He’s holed up in a trailer between a rock and nowhere. No job. A beat-up old truck. In fact, all he has is his guns and his hunting. One day – while out trying to poach a deer in order to have something to eat – he fires into a cluster of greenery and accidentally shoots a fashion model. (True story.) Rather than report it to the police (as the typical Hollywood backwoods type, he’s already got three strikes against him, see), he hauls her back to the burned out semi-truck trailer she’s been living in for a decent burial. Instead of finding answer, he finds a load of cash … which he promptly steals and leaves the body to rot. Before long, the men looking for the money come knocking, and guess who they figure right away has absconded with their loot?
To be fair, A SINGLE SHOT isn’t an inconceivably bad as I perhaps made it out to be in the plot synopsis, but it is inconceivably conceived. For starters, I don’t know (nor have I personally met) any hunter who would blindly fire into a clump of green with only the modest hope of bagging himself a deer; but that kind of irresponsible misrepresentation has never stopped Hollywood from indicting any member of the NRA. Nor did I for a moment believe Moon’s characterization as constructed by Matthew F. Jones in his screenplay (based on his own novel). For instance, I found it entirely authentic that Moon – a man who threw up at the discovery of what he’d done so horribly wrong upon seeing the young woman’s body – would suddenly cook up the idea of carrying through the forest, finding where she hid out, and set it all up to look like a murder someone else committed.
Seriously? Is there no artistic integrity left?
Not only that, but even director David Rosenthal didn’t see through the hogwash. Desperate to preserve what semblance of a family he has left, Moon’s willing to threaten others at the point of a gun, turn down a decent chance at employment, and ignore any measure of personal hygiene? What – pray tell! – caused him to fall into such a deplorable state? Perhaps there was something in here – some inkling as to what magic act brought the man to such a lowly state – but, unfortunately, Rosenthal was more interested in having the majority of his actors speak in arguably the worst set of Southern accents this side of rural Alabama! Seriously, Jeffrey Wright and Ted Levine appeared in small but pivotal roles, but, without the advent of English subtitles, I couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying!
Still, I’ll give points for efforts. A SINGLE SHOT is loaded with some nice cinematography (though Rosenthal probably never met a lighting technician he ever liked), and there are some nice nuances to Rockwell’s performance, along with the usual bankable work by William H. Macy (who proves even small-town lawyers are sleazy) and Kelly Reilly as the estranged wife who only wants what’s best for her son … even if that means having her co-worker with a penchant for watching porn go babysit her young son.
A SINGLE SHOT  is produced by United Pictures, Media House Capital, A Single Shot Productions, Bron Studios, Demarset Films, and Unanimous Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled by Well Go USA Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? Well, it’s certainly brimming with some solid cinematography, but – probably for thematic reasons – director Rosenthal felt it necessary to drape far too many shots in darkness. (Yeah, I ‘get’ that it’s atmospheric, but it’d be nice to ‘see’ things clearly every now and then.) And don’t even get me started on the dialogue – suffice it to say I had to use the English subtitle track on more occasions than I should have. If it’s special features you’re looking for, then you have a respectable ‘making of’ short along with some actor interviews with which to get all hot and bothered. (I didn’t.)
RECOMMENDED but hugely disappointing. A SINGLE SHOT creates an interesting but entirely Hollywood-driven atmosphere of rural, backwoods, and/or mountainous America in yet another “thriller” lacking any real thrills. They (studio people) really want you to believe that these folks (hunters, farmers, and other small town types) are dangerous. They (those same studio suits) really want you to understand just how wretched, crooked, and deceitful they are. In fact, they (once more, Tinseltown regulars) are convinced that, if something isn’t done about these gun-carrying, Bible-thumping types, we’re all going to Hades in a handbasket. Truth hurts … but, once again, the truth is on the wrong side of the camera.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of A SINGLE SHOT by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.