(director/writer: Jon Cvack; cinematographer: Tim Davis; editor: Angela Latimer; music: Conor Jones; cast: Micah Parker (Jack), Rosalie McIntire (Ruby), Laurence Fuller (Frank), Barak Hardley (Chris), Marshall R. Teague (Dale Miller), Caitlin Gallogly (Trudy), Michelle LaFrance (Jessica), Tim Martin Gleason (Tom), Paul T. Murray (Bill), David Lengel (Rogers); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Tim Davis/Jon Cvack/Nick Matthews/Brittany White; Candy Factory/VOD; 2016)

“Has a good professional look.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The feature film directorial debut of writer-director Jon Cvack is a slow moving, meandering and chatty indie thriller with dark comical undertones that never fully surface. It’s both a murder story set on the road and a character story framed around a fall guy who has been humiliated too much for his fragile ego to bear it anymore. There’s also thought given to the betrayal of friendship, the compromising of moral values and the disillusionment with millennials on the American dream. The low-budget film has a good professional look (its best asset is the Tim Davis photography). But it disappoints if compared to the Coen brothers in their similar-themed Blood Simple or Fargo films, as it lacks the flowery dialogue, tension and excitement of those films.

Frank (Laurence Fuller) is a repressed, gentle and passive young corporate guy; a doctoral drop-out, stuck in a dead-end city office job, who freaks out when finding his boss (Tim Martin Gleason) is sleeping with his live-in girlfriend (Michelle LaFrance) and that he’s being transferred to an undesirable spot up north for a 6-month period by his sleazy boss. When his old friend Jack (Micah Parker), a free-spirited drifter, surprisingly calls, he goes to a bar with him and unknown to him Jack arranges for a pretty prostitute named Ruby (Rosalie McIntire) to be with him to cheer him up after his bad day. While humping in the back seat of his car, a masked intruder knocks Frank cold and leaves him naked and dumps Ruby’s corpse in his trunk. Hooking up again with Jack, the panicky Frank agrees to drive to northern California to bury the body while relocating at his new job. If you can forgive these dudes for showing no concern over a murdered girl both knew and for Frank not phoning the police, you might be able to care about them more than I could.

Arriving in the suburbs, the boys meet their old college friend Chris (Barak Hardley), a self-satisfied yuppie about to get married. When he refuses to let them stay in his Lake Tahoe cabin, the boys steal the keys and go there to bury Ruby.

In the film’s most riveting scene, the boys are invited into the Lake Tahoe home of Chris’s neighbor, a suicidal aging former Army chaplain (Marshall R. Teague, in a brilliant performance). He’s sinister looking, dressed in uniform, who has lost his faith and tries talking them, any way he could, into shooting him–since he doesn’t have the guts to do it himself. If Cvack could have filled the film with the same intensity he got here, it would have had a lot more going for it.

The positives to take away are the fine performances by the mostly novice ensemble actors, its evocative score by Conor Jones and how professional the film was executed considering its tiny budget. It’s not a bad little film, with hints of noir elements that could have been carried out with more clarity.

REVIEWED ON 3/14/2017       GRADE: B-