Page 3 of 4
Sam Rockwell has been all over the Tribeca Film Festival, logging supporting parts in A Case of You and Trust Me; A Single Shot brings him front and center, but without any of his customary dance moves. He's quiet and drawling with traces of silver in his hair as John Moon, a trailer-dweller perpetually drifting between work (though he protests that he's never had trouble finding it: he's had lots of jobs) whose wife has recently moved out, taking their young son with her. In the movie's first scene, he stalks a deer in the woods, illegally. Then, even less legally, he fires into some brush and accidentally kills a young woman.
This leads him to a sketchy campsite and some money, which he takes, eventually setting off a Simple Plan-ish chain of rural crime. The movie draws out the ordinary-folks-done-wrong narrative; at first, it seems as if there really aren't enough people around to close in on Moon. But screws do start to turn, and the movie, shot in dark, rich colors, makes you feel them digging in. Rockwell has toned down his showmanship and turned up his small-scale sadness before (as in Snow Angels, another movie with surprising echoes in other Tribeca movies), but his work here is nonetheless an impressive reminder of his range.
I can't assess the movie's backwoods-town portraiture—not just because I'm a snobby NYC writer, but also because I'm not sure what it's actually portraying. The novel it's based on is set in upstate New York, which squares with some stray dialogue about Cortland, but the movie was shot in Canada, and most of the characters speak with accents that sound distinctly southern (don't get me wrong: upstate has its hillbillies, and some distinctive accents—but not quite this pronounced, in my experience). It's also hard to tell whether the movie is set 10 or 20 years ago, or if William H. Macy's suits (as a cheap lawyer) and everyone's lack of a cell phone is just supposed to be sociological or whatever. I admire A Single Shot's spare approach to noir, but I'm not sure it earns its tortured-metaphor ending. Jesse Hassenger
Screens tonight, Saturday and Sunday. More info here.