The only film easier to spot than a Sundance Audience Pick is a USC Film School Graduation project. Or rather, a first USC post-graduation commercial assignment. Here’s a perfect example (make that 'perfectly awful example') of the form.* Rian Johnson, who wrote & megged, came up with one of those High Concept ideas that sound good . . . if you don’t bother to think about it. Here it’s High School noir, a junior-league Raymond Chandler/Dashiell Hammett number about a loner student who goes into action when his ex-girlfriend goes missing. He follows some leads, finds her dead, gets beat up a couple of times, then plays one student gang against another to find out who’s responsible. Oh, and don’t forget the lying dame love interest. It’s hard to tell just how parodistic Johnson means to be, he certainly didn’t let his cast in on the gag, so Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas and a host of much lesser talents are more-or-less on their own. But since it’s impossible to follow the storyline, Gordon-Levitt’s feats of ratiocination defy all attempts to follow along, especially with half the cast swallowing their lines, you just sit back and get pissed off at the moody changes in color saturation & useless jump cuts which pass for style.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *No kiddin', didn't realize this was a Sundance Prize winner until I chose the poster after doing the Write-Up. Oy!
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Raymond Chandler’s favorite Philip Marlowe was Dick Powell in Edward Dmytryk’s MURDER MY SWEET/’44. But those guys went even further, kidding-on-the-square to fabulous effect in their faux-Chandler follow-up, CORNERED/’45.