2AM, closing time: A cocky bar manager with a shady past and a young handsome bartender discover a beautiful woman bloodied and unconscious in the bathroom of a late night lounge. When she awakens, Tony, Matt and the mysterious Rose are plunged into a stirring evening of dangerous role playing in an ever-escalating game of cat and mouse that forces them to face the dark shadows of themselves. As we begin to piece together the elaborate puzzle, nothing is what it seems. However, one thing is for certain: this Rose is full of thorns.
Disclaimer: Please note that this film is not intended for ALL audiences. Because it is an independent film, it carries no rating. Had it been released in the theater, it probably would have been rated “R” or at least “PG-13.” The profanity is rampant, the violence is intensely arresting, and the sexual references are not veiled by any means. While I would not normally have chosen to watch this film (as it is, I had to watch when my parents and daughter were asleep), I am glad that I did because the message is so formidable that even the potentially objectionable portions of the movie were worth tolerating for the overall purpose of the story. This is not intended for “sensitive viewers.”
As I begin this review, I am aware of the fact that there are more actors involved than just the three leads that I will mention. The others were fine actors–don’t get me wrong. But for the intent of this review, I am only going to discuss the three main roles for the simple reason that they are the ones who drive the story towards its impassioned conclusion.
From the first frame of the film, we are introduced to the two main guys in the story–Tony, as played by Rick Ravanello, and Matt, as played by Ryan Merriman. Matt and Tony have a grisly discovery on their hands–a young woman in the restroom who is passed out. Is she dead, or is she merely drugged, drunk, or otherwise out of commission?
Meet Rose, as played by Fairuza Balk. And so commences one of the most galvanizing nights of anyone’s life. The wild ride has begun, and the writer/director, Christopher Glatis, has given us the kind of story he does exceptionally well. As one who has interviewed Chris and has reviewed one of his other recent works (Swivel Shot), I am well aware of the fact that Chris has a passion for recounting stories where the viewers are plunged headfirst into the sludgy muck of minimal details, and little by little, the particulars are revealed at a painstakingly slow pace. And that is decidedly true for this film. And also in true Glatis fashion, those details will come gushing out in diverse ways and often at inopportune times, thus making for a new definition of “gripping.” Should you decide to view this film, you are compelled to never turn away lest you miss a crucial piece of the narrative. Oh, and in case you hadn’t figured this out, this film will challenge what you believe in a society about what is real and what is fabricated. This may be an even more chaotically exotic ride unlike any show you’ve seen before.
As Rose begins to recount her story, the viewers cannot help but wonder if what she is saying is factual or not. She appears to be the victim in all this, but as the story unravels, is she telling the truth or making up sordid trivia to pit Tony and Matt against each other? I mean, they are typical guys, right? And she’s a girl who has experienced a horrendous tragedy, or so it would seem.
To Fairuza’s credit. she depicts Rose in exactly the way she should to advance the storyline in the way it needs to be to keep the viewers on edge. As I’ve only seen Fairuza here and there in other works, this is the first time I was ever treated to her unique brand of acting. I never trusted her character, but there is no doubt that she played Rose in such a way that at times, I couldn’t help but believe her, no matter how outlandish a tale she spins. As her character developed, I grew to loathe Rose. She seems like a manipulative vixen who knows exactly which buttons to push to enrage and entice these unfortunate men. While her character has been battered, and with all due respect looks like a “hooker,” she is the only woman in a bar after hours with two men who have voracious sexual appetites. Indeed, Fairuza plays her part incredibly fittingly, and the outcome is precisely what one would presume. Except for the fact that this story will leave you feeling askew due to a few surprises that are concealed along the way.
Being quite forthright, I couldn’t stand Rose, but that is not Fairuza’s fault. She’s not supposed to be a likable character. Sadly, she doesn’t seem to possess any redeeming qualities. But Fairuza gives a fabulous performance, no doubt! She completely and with reckless abandon submerges herself into this spicy role.
As far as the character Matt goes, at first he seems like a caring sort of guy. He is rather concerned about Rose–probably even more so than Tony. Tony is more apprehensive about the cops showing up, as Tony has been attempting to get his life back on track. Ryan does an outstanding job of playing Matt, and he is kind of like a foil to Tony. Matt has had his share of troubles, but Tony is in the midst of violently serious issues. Matt is the one whom you know will sell out to this “broad’ long before Tony will. But then again, for so much of the film, Rose has them right where she wants them–at each other’s throats, quite literally. But Matt does not appear to have as many goblins within him vying for his soul. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything. Ryan’s role is not quite as colorful as Rick’s (I’ll talk about his in a minute), but it is his character that makes Tony seem more maniacal than what he appears to be. Rose and Matt come across as the ones who are more obsessed with self-preservation than Tony may be, but then again, one is never certain of anything in this film.
Permit me to say that Tony is the undeniable central character in this story. Everything about Rick as he portrays this character seeks to make him out to be the tormented one who seems to have everything to lose by succumbing to the charms of this minx or having the police come to this establishment. Indeed, Rick is the reason I initially purchased this film, and he is the reason I kept watching. While it is true that Rick is a very dear friend (that’s the understatement of the year, by the way), what I am preparing to say about his interpretation of Tony is not from any kind of bias. It is based solely on his phenomenal depiction on screen.
From the beginning, there is much we do not know about Tony. Details and flashbacks continue to infiltrate the story. Substance abuse is an issue. Cheating on his wife is an issue. Keeping out of jail is an issue. Tony is possibly the most afflicted and conflicted character Rick has ever taken on. And what makes it tough is he is not a “bad” person. His character has been placed in a thoroughly impromptu situation with potentially dire consequences. A drugged girl who may have been raped is passed out in his bar. The more that is revealed about his past, the more we realize just how convoluted this guy is.
As for Rick’s performance, this is one of those roles that I don’t know if anyone else could have played in just the way he did. The entire persona of this character was conveyed by the look he has, his mannerisms, his way of speaking, and even the way in which he relates to the other characters. Undoubtedly, this character has more layers than most onions sitting in your refrigerator. And per normal, Rick utterly immerses his heart, soul, body, and his entire essence into this role. I don’t believe I once saw “Rick” when I watched the screen. He exhaustively transformed himself into Tony. And this man is so “messed up” in too many ways to name.
Now, with a character like this, some actors may not fully embrace the many facets of such a multifarious man. Sometimes when I watch a character like this, I harbor no commiseration for them. In fact, a scoundrel like this? I may have cheered the flogging of an actor who didn’t completely engross himself in the role. I have been known to do that. Total dedication is an laborious feat–just ask Rick.
In Rick’s case, I felt genuine empathy for him. How many of us have struggled with our own proverbial demons at some point in our lives? How many of us have secrets in our past that we don’t wish to divulge to anyone? I can think of several in my past that only my very closest friends know. but in Tony’s case, his secrets are being bared to a potentially backstabbing friend who only wishes to gain at Tony’s defeat, and a vindictive woman who appears to seek vile revenge against all men on the planet. Imagine airing your “dirty laundry” before such a crew. And once the potential for police interference becomes apparent, it only heightens the sense of hopelessness you may feel. And for Rick, as he portrays Tony, he nails it! You sense the pathos on a firecely deep level. The “perfect” world he has tried to convey to the general public is crumbling before him. And as I have declared before, when Rick cries, you cry. And when the shouting matches and violence begin, I completely sided with Tony because he is the only one with a heart, albeit a broken one.
Unfortunately, I do have but one criticism of the film, and it is not Rick’s fault. In fact, it is no one’s fault per se, as this is art, and I am only sharing my subjective opinion. When the mind-blowing conclusion came, I felt as though I had been gypped out of something genuinely profound. Without ruining the ending, I can say that it terminates far too quickly, and it’s almost like the true message of the film gets a bit muddled. About five minutes before the conclusion, I was anticipating an ending that would broadcast a dynanically vital message to society. But when the end came, it was far too abrupt for its own good. In my opinion, had the film been extended about five more minutes, and Tony had his opportunity to demonstrate his unmitigated brokenness in a shockingly dramatic way (I’ve heard about how Rick wished to end the movie, and I think his ending makes more sense, but that is an opinion.), I believe the impact would have been stirring and immutable in a heart-rending fashion. Nevertheless, the message is there, and it is a stinging assessment of our society and our current obsessions. Furthermore, reality is something that is personal to each of us. Perhaps we haven’t all had the same experience. Maybe we have lived through a similar situation, but each of us will view it through our own lens. In this film, we are treated to a peek into the reality from Tony’s point of view. This is why the conclusion is so jarring.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a film that if you are willing to watch something that will disconcert you for a while and send you through the throes of emotions that echo to the corner of your being, this is the movie for you. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is possibly the most artful assessment I’ve ever heard or seen of the reality shows that are on television and our current fascination with them.
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