(director/writer: Nick Tomnay; screenwriter: Krishna Jones; cinematographer: Krishna Jones; editor: Nick Tomnay; music: John Swihart; cast: David Hyde Pierce (Warwick Wilson), Clayne Crawford (John Taylor), Nathaniel Parker (Detective Morton), Joseph Will (Detective Valdez), Megahn Perry (Simone De Marchi), Helen Reddy (Cathy Knight), Annie Campbell (Chelsea), Cooper Barnes (Rupert), Tyrees Allen (Roman), Indira Gibson (Monica); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Stacey Testro/Mark Victor; Magnolia Pictures; 2010)

Suffers for being too clever and convoluted despite being so witty.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie filmmaker Nick Tomnay in his feature length directing debut helms this uneven black comedy/psychological thriller, that suffers for being too clever and convoluted despite being so witty.The director co-writes this endearing but confusing screenplay with Krishna Jones.

Soft-spoken career criminal John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) is on the run in Los Angeles after robbing a bank of $300,000. After his wallet is lifted in a convenience store robbery, the barefoot and bleeding from a foot wound John, desperately needing to get off the streets until his planned escape that night, reads the postcard in the mailbox of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce) from a lady acquaintance visiting Sydney and pretends to be the friend of the woman as he rings for entry to the luxurious modern house and claims he needs a place to stay for a few hours because he was mugged and the airport lost his luggage and that his lady-friend told him to look up Warwick when in LA. It leads to John talking his way into staying with the well-cultured bachelor Warwick, busy cooking a duck dinner for his dinner party, until he can make other arrangements. The milquetoast Warwick insists John stay as his guest for his dinner party, but it turns out both men are not who they seem to be. When through TV new bulletin the dapper Warwick learns of John’s true identity, he gets the upper-hand by spiking his red wine and menacingly holding a chef’s knife to his throat after being threatened by John. Then Warwick bounds to a chair the scruffy bank robber, and the two resourceful dark characters engage in a cat-and-mouse game that involves wearing a Gillman mechanical mask of torture, conga dances, facial knife wounds and verbal abuse.

The pic falls apart when we learn that Warwick might be consorting with imaginary friends as dinner guests and even the postcard writer may be fictitious. It then only gets more outlandish and more unconvincing when we learn that the effete Warwick is a police lieutenant, and that his team of detectives are looking for the bank robber–suspecting an inside job with the bank teller (Megahn Perry), who handed over unmarked bills during the heist.

The pic is filled with unresolved holes, a storyline that fails to connect its missing parts and an awkward third act that tells in an non-energetic way a back story of a double-crossing bank teller and a sicko police officer being more despicable than the bank robber. Though diverting because of the ridiculous but amusing shock scenes of contrasting realities and the sharp acting of the two leads playing well off each other, the film is no Sleuth as it just makes no sense and its narrative is as worthless as phony money.

REVIEWED ON 12/27/2011 GRADE: B-