A Single Shot movie poster
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A Single Shot
A Single Shot movie poster

A Single Shot Movie Review

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Sam Rockwell accidentally kills a woman but is rewarded by finding a pile of cash in the slow-boil thriller A Single Shot, a sometimes dull, sometimes enthralling tale that at least ends on a high note.

Rockwell plays John Moon, a lonely deer hunter who is trying to fight a divorce from his wife, who has taken his kid from him. When he accidentally shoots a woman who is wandering around in the woods with a bag full of cash, as commonly happens, he sets into motion a spiral of events... namely ones involving bad guys trying to get their cash back.

It's a story that's been done before, and to greater effect, in films like A Simple Plan or countless Coen Brothers movies. The movie, which is based off a novel and screenplay by Matthew F. Jones, moves at a slow crawl, and at nearly two hours feels long given that not much happens for the first hour and a half. Set in a backwoods town, Rockwell hides under a scruffy beard and low key demeanor, and most of the rest of the actors - namely Jason Isaacs and Jeffrey Wright - are even more nondescript. Combined with the monochrome and moody atmosphere director David M. Rosenthal applies to the story, A Single Shot is often too nuanced for its own good.

Still, Rockwell delivers a fine performance, as he is known to do. His character is interesting and likable even as he does make poor decisions, and the filmmakers treat his arc much more dramatically than I expected - to the point that comparing A Single Shot to the film noirs mentioned earlier is almost unfair. But then there's William H. Macy, whose charismatic and contrasting character stands out among the rest, whose presence merely reminds you of the much more entertaining, intoxicating and not entirely different Fargo.

Aside from its slogging pace, the biggest problem with the movie is that Jones and Rosenthal decide to pivot the story in a scene where a very, very drunk Jeffrey Wright spills the beans. While Wright's performance is technically good, it's so hard to understand what he's saying half the time I tuned out. I tuned out a lot during the movie for this very reason.

And yet A Single Shot isn't without is strengths. The score by Atli Örvarsson is haunting and mesmerizing and is largely responsible for keeping the movie afloat (as if he watched the movie and said, "Crap, I better crank it up"). Also, when the pot finally boils over in the third act, A Single Shot hits its stride. The climax is tense and captivating. Worth the wait? Hard to say.

A Single Shot is a well-acted movie that, when it works, it works pretty well. However, its slow pacing and nuanced storytelling approach is a test of patience, and I can't say that I, or it, passed.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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