Running Time Review

The Film
If you’ve got as far as reading this review then either you are a huge Bruce Campbell fan or you are very bored. I am an Evil Dead fan and I read on a fansite somewhere about this film. Once I heard the unusual way in which it was presented I was sold. I am a sucker for a gimmick and this time I’m glad I got pulled in.

Running Time is a very short (70-minutes) low budget ($120,000) feature with a real twist. The entire film plays out in real-time using only one camera. The result is that the film looks as if it was done in one take. The only other film to attempt this is Hitchcock’s Rope. Of course given the fact that this was shot on 16mm then it is obvious that the film has not been shot in one take it’s simply been edited very cleverly. Even so the average length of a take is 4-5 minutes with the longest being around 9-minutes which is a remarkable achievement. The effect is initially unsettling, then it becomes compelling and it really helps drive the film through to its conclusion.

The plot is understandably simple. When we join our protagonist Carl (Campbell) he is being released from prison. He very quickly hooks up with his old friend Patrick (Jeremy Roberts) and it becomes obvious that Carl has planned a heist for the day of his release. The other two members of the gang are picked up and they carry out Carl’s meticulously planned heist. As you can probably guess everything does not go according to plan (and that is an understatement). During this Carl has a reunion with an ex-girlfriend and she is the one he turns to when things go wrong.

I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot for you but I have to say this film was a pleasant surprise. It is tempting to dismiss the concept of a “film in one take” as a gimmick until you realise there is actually a pretty decent script behind it. The action and dialogue swing from tense serious scenes to comedic moments and back again with ease, very Tarantino-esque. This gives us a tense heist film with a lighter side that keeps you glued from the beginning to the end (well almost). The characterisation is sketchy at best but this is understandable given the format of the film.

The flaws in the script and plot only really arrive at the end where the whole thing unfortunately starts to crumble and collapse. The camera follows Campbell for the entire film until the last 10-minutes where it inexplicably goes off to follow another character’s point of view. This is necessary to achieve the ending but it weakens the concept and the film as a whole. Also the motivation for the character’s actions in this last section are suspect and this causes the film to end on a low note. This is unfortunate as with a little more thought they could’ve found a better way to achieve the ending they wanted.

Campbell is the star of this piece and he does his bit by putting in an accomplished performance. He is never going to win any Oscars but he is always watchable and his comic timing is superb here. Jeremy Roberts also puts in a great performance as his childhood friend Patrick. The two bounce off each other incredibly well and help to keep the film pacy and fresh. A mention must go to Stan Davis and Gordon Jennison Noice as the other two gang members. These guys don’t have a huge amount of screen time but they make the most of what they have. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Anita Barone playing Janie who is fairly poor and wooden for the most part. She shines in her first scene but then is very weak when she reappears towards the end.

The other point I haven’t mentioned until now is that the film is in black and white. The reasoning behind this fascinated me until the obvious technical reason came to light. Due to the varying light levels as the camera goes from interior to exterior the film had to be black and white. As it turns out this is a good choice as it suits the subject matter perfectly. It gives the film a real old style heist movie feel, something along the lines of the action scenes in The Killing. The direction throughout is assured and although the camera work is a little shaky in places (literally as well as figuratively) it is mostly excellent. The film is worth watching simply for the shot that goes from a camera spinning through a tunnel through to Campbell assaulting a junkie. Overall the “cuts” are pretty well done for the most part although a handful are a little jarring.

This is a difficult film to rate due to its unusual nature. Any fans of Hitchcock’s Rope should certainly give it a try. Any Campbell fans that aren’t expecting another OTT Evil Dead type film should also enjoy it. As for the rest of you… I would say it’s certainly worth a rent and I thoroughly enjoyed it despite its obvious flaws.

The Disc
Anchor Bay needs another pat on the back for bringing this film to the forefront and giving it a very good release on DVD. The packaging is simple enough with a chapter list detailing the 22 chapters.

The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 in black and white. Most of the flaws in the picture can be attributed to the format and circumstances of the shoot. The print used is reasonable although there are a certain amount of flecks and specks to mar it. The black level and contrast are excellent throughout which is essential given the camerawork and light levels used when filming. The transfer itself is also excellent with no discernable artefacting that I could see. Overall this is an accomplished transfer with a black mark for a damaged print.

Anchor Bay have left the soundtrack alone on this film and given us the original mono track. This is a good solid track with audible dialogue and no hiss, pops or crackles. Nothing spectacular but the film doesn’t need a whiz-bang soundtrack.

The commentary from Campbell and director Josh Becker is the only substantial extra on the disc. However it is a cracking commentary full of information, banter and few silences. This isn’t up there with Campbell’s Evil Dead commentaries but it is certainly entertaining and I may even listen to it again (something I rarely do).

Other than the commentary there is a simple trailer, which is nothing extraordinary.

The film is an accomplished one and is entertaining to boot. The picture and transfer are good given the source and the soundtrack is more than adequate. The extras package is sparse but well worth a look. An entertaining independent movie with an unusual concept is given a decent release on DVD? What are you all waiting for?

7 out of 10
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out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 17:56:09

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