CAPSULE: Somewhere here there is a solid crime thriller with a lot of twists and surprises. First-time director Michael C. Martin is good at plotting but not so good at telling a story so that it can be followed. Previously he wrote but did not direct BROOKLYN'S FINEST (2009). Brutal and bloody, the narrative of his new film follows a twisted plot forward and backward in time, throwing off the viewer just when he thinks he has it understood. The viewer may want to be prepared to see the film a second time to follow what happened. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
T. S. Eliot said, "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." That could have easily been the inspiration for the crime film 10 CENT PISTOL. The story moves backward and forward in time. Several of the scenes we return to. Each time we return we think we understand what is going on, and each time we think we are understanding it for the first time.
Easton (played by Damon Alexander) has recently been released from prison. It seems some months back he tried to pull a job on his own without getting the permission of local crime lord Punchy (Joe Mantegna). Easton's punishment was that Punchy stole from him some government bonds. But Punchy had saved Easton from a long prison term by letting him be the fall guy for a smaller crime. Now Easton is out of jail and wants his bonds back from Punchy. Meanwhile Easton hangs around with old pal Jake (JT Alexander, Damon's real life brother). The two of them hang around with a failing young actress, Danneel (Jena Malone). Danneel applies the lessons from her acting class as rules to run her personal life. Meanwhile, Punchy wants Jake and Easton to do another job for him for a big score against the Russian mob that will net Easton a lot more profit than the stolen bonds are worth.
The film was written and directed by Michael C. Martin. His plot is good, but somehow Martin has written a script that is top-heavy with too many mysteries to keep straight. Making that even more of a problem is that without notice the story jumps backward and forward in time. It is hard for the viewer to know if characters are changing their looks over time or if we are looking at different people. Are we looking at two different characters or the same character at two different points of time? This ambiguity combines with unexpected plot twists keep the viewer struggling. And I found there are few familiar faces in the cast, which is one more contribution to the plot confusion. The final plot twist, however, telegraphs itself too far in advance.
Joe Mantegna takes full advantage of the quirky dialog Martin has written for him. Still, Jena Malone makes herself the center of attraction in every scene she is in. It is hard to believe this is the actress who played the pre-teen scientist in CONTACT.
For intentional and unintentional reasons this is a crackling good crime film that keeps the viewer off-balance. The film fully achieves that goal. Martin as director might have given the viewer a little more of a chance to get that balance back. Or not. I rate 10 CENT PISTOL a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. 10 CENT PISTOL will be released to VOD, iTunes, and limited theaters on July 24.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2134170/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/771421334/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper