TARGET PRACTICE (director/writer: Richmond Riedel; cinematographer: Richmond Riedel; editor: Richmond Riedel; music: Jeff Arwardy; cast: Joey Lanai (Paul), Eltony Williams (Albedeen, CIA agent), Solomon Hoilett (Ron), Eric Dean (Mark), Aaron Hawk (Steve), Jeff (Richard DeGuilio), Bill Elverman (David), Steven Frances (Johnathan), Daniel Rosenberg (Ghazi), Bryan Hanna (Khalif); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richmond Riedel; Big Screen Entertainment Group; 2008)
“Well-made and exciting indie thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
First-time filmmaker, longtime editor, Richmond Riedel, efficiently directs, writes, photographs, edits and produces on a shoestring budget this well-made and exciting indie thriller.It’s about five regular working-class guys–David (Bill Elverman), Jeff (Richard DeGuilio), Paul (Joey Lanai), Steve (Aaron Hawk), Mark (Aaron Hawk)–doing some male bonding on a weekend fishing trip to a secluded mountain some six hours away that David’s cousin told them about and encountering a home-grown Al Qaeda-backed terrorist camp with 20 armed terrorists they must escape from or die.
Ever since 9/11, terrorism has been a timely subject and part of the public’s major concerns. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have supported the War on Terror and have used fear-mongering to get an enormous budget to keep up this fight even if certain things about the way it’s fought infringe on our civil liberties and are not that effective.This pic gives us its in your face take on the dangers the free world faces from an invisible enemy bent on destroying it.If you can forget the questionable propaganda promoted by the premise (it fails to mention that most terrorists over the last ten years have been white Christian extremist right-wingers and not Muslim jihadists) and relate to the movie as less a political pic but more an action pic (which I believe the filmmaker was trying to do) with a clever character study, missing many of the usual annoying cliches of a Hollywood action pic and offering a shocking ending, then I believe Target Practice can be viewed as an intriguing pic that doesn’t embarrass itself intellectually or become as unreal as many big budget thrillers.
It opens with a Robert Frost quote: “Whose woods these are, I think I know,” which warns us to be vigilant because in the shadows evil lurks for those unsuspecting souls who venture into places they never explored. From its opening to its conclusion the pic remains tense, where every step in the woodsy mountain terrain is a perilous one that might mean life or death.
The five argumentative pals stop to check out an abandoned Jeep on the secluded mountainside road and are fired upon, resulting in the loss of lives of two of them with another hit in the shoulder. The surviving suburban-dwellers spread out in the woods and are forced to fight these trained guerrilla fighters and also must determine which one of the terrorists is really the CIA agent he claims to be. This agent infiltrated the terrorist cell and now must get down from the mountain alive to make his report, since there’s no signal from a cell phone.
In the interactions among the five friends and their encounters with the violent terrorists, such things are explored as racism, friendship, fanaticism, valor and the ability to think freely. The film is brilliantly shot on digital video. The ‘hunted men as prey’ tale manages to keep things tense until the final shot is fired. The fictitious storyline is supposedly based on such real-life incidents taking place in both America and Canada. It leaves the viewer with more questions than answers about what can be done to fight terrorism without resorting to using terrorist methods. But what it leaves no doubt about, is that this is a solid action pic that is genuinely unsettling about these confusing times we live in. It even dares to tell us that we can’t even go fishing anymore and think we have escaped from the real world, because the world has a way of catching up with us even in the most isolated places.
REVIEWED ON 7/28/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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