By Patrick R. McDonough
Jack Archer (Chase Williamson – John Dies at the End, Victor Crowley) is a filmmaker that dreams of shooting a full-length picture. But in order for him to do that, he either needs money to produce one, or get someone to back the feature for him. Only, nobody wants to invest their money in this first-time director.
His short films aren’t good enough…for most. Bob Moseby (Chris Browning – 3:10 to Yuma, The Book of Eli, Sons of Anarchy) feels differently about that. He has a meeting with Jack, runs through some questions, and hires him. Things are turned up a notch when Moseby informs Archer that he has no other option but to film a real murder.
The first two scenes hook you in with the promise of everything a good film should: anticipation, a peek into the protagonist’s mind, and a reason to root and care for said protagonist. Jack—a somewhat-reserved, starving artist—embodies what many up-an-coming creatives are like. Him and his best friend Sam, reminiscing about past shitty movies they worked on, and talks about his dreams with his girlfriend Shantel, all point to Jack being a lovable loser–a good guy that never seems to have luck on his side.
Both Jack and Shantel are artists. She, a novelist, and he, a screenwriter. They believe in each other but are under restricting financial parameters. During a dinner between them and Shantel’s parent’s, her forthright father speaks his mind about Jack not making any money and what he thinks of him. It was interesting to watch the conversation unfold, adding a layer of tension to Jack’s life.
Greenlight is a slow-burn sort of film with moments that will run down anything in its path. That’s what made this movie feel so organic. So real. Its fluctuating cadence. The pressurization within Jack builds up from the very beginning on a subconscious level, all the way through to the more obvious and in-your-face battle of Jack wanting to run and Moseby forcing him to carry out his plan.
The movie was so engrossing that I felt as if I were a fly on the set. Secretly knowing Jack’s dirty little secret and what he had to do. The acting, filming, directing, editing, and effects make it clear that this is a film worth visiting time-after-time. It’s a film that deserves to be in film schools, to be studied, and viewed with an analytical eye. Jack’s character development is as scary as it is rewarding. It shows the true horrors that someone can face when given an opportunity to make their dream become a reality.
Chase Williamson led this film with the precision of a seasoned veteran. Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Hatchet III) is a name that any horror fan should love and adore, and her portraying of an indie horror film actress is both ironic and amazing. Her performance woven throughout the story provides necessary beats of humor and complexity. Chris Browning is a personal favorite of mine. He’s an actor that hasn’t gotten as many big roles as I believe he deserves. He personifies the cool-tough guy that you want to befriend. Yet , you know it would be a bad idea to cross him. Victor Turpin (Shades of Blue, See Dad Run) adds fuel to this inferno of a film with his brilliant performance. Shane Coffey (Starry Eyes, Aquarians) made me want to pull him out of the screen and tell him everything would be ok. His depiction of Jack’s best friend was fantastic. Nicole Alexandra Shipley (Wishing for a Dream, Sable) did a stellar job and what she had to offer was nothing short of necessary with tying off a few loose ends. And lastly, Evanne Friedmann’s (Awkward, Lara) performance was perfect. She’s the girl-next-door. If the girl next door had a heart of gold but didn’t let anyone walk over her.
As far as the writing and directing go, Graham Denman could not have done a better job. Like Jack Archer, this was his first feature. The film is a well-oiled machine that needed no fine-tuning. Part of me wonders if Greenlight was inspired by any real events in his life. Denman is a name that you should store in your memory banks. This guy isn’t going away for a long time. I’ll be patiently waiting for his next film.
Greenlight comes in at one hour and twenty-four minutes. From start to end it doesn’t loosen its grip. It leaves you satisfied, with a smile. It’s due to be released in early 2020. If my praise isn’t enough to convince you to watch this in theaters, then maybe the two awards it won at Shriekfest (for Best Thriller Feature, and Best Male Performance in Feature Film) in LA this year, will. Greenlight deserves praise from your average movie-goer to film buffs alike. It’s a damn good film. I loved it and I know you will too.
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