Monday, April 6, 2009

Good Boy (2009)

Filmmaker Patrick Roddy follows up his dark, surreal short Mercy with the feature-length Good Boy. Good Boy starts with down-on-his-luck dreamer Max (Josh Marcantel) working a dead-end job in a dead-end Louisiana town. He dreams of moving out west, but lack of funds and his old truck that always breaks down prevents him from fulfilling that dream.

That is, until one night when he decides he’s had enough, steals cash from his employer and hits the road. The next day, his truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere and heads to the nearest house. Inside, he finds a girl chained up, but before he can help her captor, named Harley (Gary Shannon) returns. He witnesses Harley beat the girl into a pulp, but Harley’s other “pet,” named Princess (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle), sees Max. When Harley and Princess finally leave, Max tries calling the cops, but in this small Southern town word travels fast and soon Max finds himself in a cat and mouse game with Harley.

Good Boy is a stunning film and reinforces my belief that director Patrick Roddy is destined for great things! First off, Good Boy effectively captures the essence of the South. Remember the film Black Snake Moan? How it just oozed that Southern feel? That is exactly how Good Boy makes you feel. Also helping to evoke that feeling is the fantastic music used throughout the film. Mournful and soulful music in the style of country, blues and jazz capture the sorrow and hopelessness, as well as the never-going-to-give-up spirit of the lead character, Max.

Director Patrick Roddy also uses the wide-open landscape of the country to evoke feelings of loneliness, wistfulness, awe, etc. Cinematographer Jorge L. Urbina captures the run-down, expansive and eerily beautiful Louisiana backroads but also creates claustrophobia within the close, indoor scenes. Each shot, either expansive or claustrophobic, was crafted by both director and cinematographer with attention to detail and turned out beautifully! This film has such a polished, professional looking sheen that it looks like it was made for millions of dollars instead of its low budget! The cinematography itself could tell the story, without dialogue, and still be effective.

In fact, not much dialogue is used throughout the film, with writer Ken Henderson giving the actors room to stretch and really use their expressions and body movement to show emotion. I really enjoyed how the film had its quiet moments and didn’t feel the need to rely on useless chit-chat. Instead, Henderson made sure that the dialogue spoken was purposeful and used effectively.

Henderson also did a wonderful job of developing the characters. I liked how slightly odd they all were and reminded me of characters you’d see in a David Lynch or Coen Brothers film. He also created the perfect pace and tension throughout the story, with the direction and actors also contributing to the nice flow of the film.

The actors all did a fine job and should be proud to be part of such a fantastic film. Josh Marcantel really stood out and gave an electrifying performance as Max. He didn’t need dialogue to express how he felt, but showed it through his eyes and body language. He drew you into the story and kept you glued to the screen while you rooted him on. Also, Gary Shannon (who was also the lead in Mercy) plays one evil bastard and makes it look good! I loved how his character of Harley was so different from his character in Mercy. It just showed a whole new side of Shannon and proves his versatility. We also get to see Tiffany Shepis in a small role, which is always a pleasure!

Good Boy is an amazing effort by all involved, and though it at first appears to be a quiet film, once the action kicks in it shows itself to have quite the vicious streak! There is quite a bit of violence including fights, murders, car chases, sex, betrayal and so on in this film, which juxtaposes nicely with the beautiful cinematography. This psychological thriller plays out very nicely and I, for one, couldn’t take my eyes off the screen!

Good Boy is another success for director Patrick Roddy and really makes me excited to see what the future holds for him! If you can find this film playing at a festival or available for purchase, SEE IT! You’ll be happy you did!

For more info, visit Patrick Roddy’s Official Site!

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