that-terrible-jazz

Directed by: Mike Falconi
Starring: Ephraim Davis, Ellay Watson, Timothy J. Cox, David A. Rodriguez , Jim Snyder, John Rifici, Thomas Schmitt

Short film noir written and directed by Mike Falconi. Shot in black and white which immediately sets the underlying tone, the film begins ambiguously with a quick introduction to the story’s femme fatal, ‘Betty’ (Elizabeth Alksne), her boyfriend Wynn DuMont (Gyasi Howard) and the main character, private investigator Sam Sellers (Ephraim Davis).

As the story quickly unfolds we find out that Sam’s personal life is in a downward spiral, he’s been drinking heavily and his wife wants to divorce him, however, when Sam gets a call from his friend, Nicky (Timothy J. Cox), the local night club owner, asking him for a favor to find DuMont, who is the clubs jazz band’s saxophone player, things start to change for Sam as he decides to quit drinking and instead reluctantly agrees to help Nicky.

So as Sam begins his investigation what he finds is that everybody that knew DuMont is acting suspicious beginning with his fellow band members, Dean, Dallas and Mac (John Rifici, Thomas Schmitt and Bruce Clifford), none of whom seem to be aware that DuMont has a girlfriend, even though Sam had seen her with DuMont the night he went missing. But they do throw another character into the mystery when they reveal the name of their ex-saxophone player, Jimmy Calder (David A. Rodriguez), who was thrown out of the band for being drunk and unreliable.

As Sam digs deeper he finds out that DuMont was a loner, lived out of a suitcase, which is also missing along with his saxophone. But from the phonebook that he left behind Sam finds out the name of the girl he was seeing; Bethany ‘Betty’ Shaw.

After a quick meeting with Bethany, who is clearly hiding something and even denies being in a relationship with DuMont, Sam is able to find out from her that there was bad blood between Jimmy and DuMont and they even got into a fight on the night he went missing.

It’s during Sam’s meeting with Jimmy that we get to know a little bit more into Sam’s character, as Jimmy mirrors his own recent heavy drinking behavior making Sam realize that if he continues down his current dark path this is how his life could end up.

The film ticks most of the correct boxes for this type of genre: shot in black and white, bartender who has seen it all, cigarettes, alcohol, a mysterious woman and the cynical hero. So when the final plot is revealed it sadly loses any element of surprise, which I think would have been hard to pull off anyway given this type of genre.

Ephraim Davis portrayal as the cynical private investigator is faithful to the film noir genre, however as the narrative is short there isn’t enough depth to the character for us to care enough about him. The rest of the supporting cast are effective enough in their small roles, but again as they only have a few minutes screen time it’s difficult to relate to them.

Verdict: Even though the narrative is flawed and the dialogue is clunky, it can be applauded for providing enough energy to keep the momentum moving along and not completely losing the audience’s interest.

 

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