One would think that it would be easy for an Opinion Columnist to write a movie review…it’s not. Let me explain.
I was invited to attend the Premier of THE CLOSER by the writer/Director, Eli Hershko. I watched the film while sitting in the seat directly to his left. It was like taking a final exam while your teacher hovered over your shoulder; not that Mr. Hershko was doing so. Indeed, he let me enter my movie meditation state without interruption and I was able to devote my total attention to the screen. In fact, after the movie started I was barely aware of his presence.
I would like to preface this by pointing out that most films we see today follow a particular sequence: Introduce characters, shoot someone, bad drama, car chase, sex scene, more shooting, lots of stunts, foot chase followed by more shooting, and so on until the ending credits. All very predictable.
It was refreshing to see that the writers (Victor Baranes, Isaac Broyn and Eli Hershko) had neither the budget nor inclination to follow this sad formula; settling instead for an original, very well delivered story.
Now, let’s break this thing down:
THE PLOT: I think it’s fair to say that most of us see bankers and mortgage companies as predators run by men with very dark souls. This description was never as accurate as it was during the subprime lending fiasco. A time when lenders where offering mortgages to anyone willing to apply, regardless of their ability to pay, and then selling the paper to investors looking for a hefty profit. The way this works is somewhat involved, but is explained in the film via a short scene which sets out the motivations without boring us into a short nap. A nice bit of writing by my take.
We all know that during this time, bankers and investors were moving these worthless mortgages around like so much counterfeit money; and making a fortune by doing so. But this is not that story. No, this is the story of the bottom feeders. The people who bought homes, fixed them up a bit, and then sold them, often without concern for the law, to a buyer…any buyer.
Steven (Robert Berlin) is a somewhat crude, self-centered, and greedy man who sees there’s money to be made and sets about making it. He is ruthless, scheming, and demanding; riding his team of buyers/sellers with harsh aggressiveness. Steven wears a black suit (dark suit- dark soul?) His only concerns are profit and self.
I think it’s fair to say that Steven’s only real love interest is…well…Steven. However, the very talented and lovely Jessica Park does a great job of playing his girlfriend, Kim.
Robert Berlin’s portrayal of Steven is a clean demonstration of tightrope walking. Berlin’s “Steven” is rudely confident and always alert; looking around like a street thug who’s afraid the cops are coming. Berlin never overplays his role; opting to explore the full dynamics of his character. A thug who is sometimes bully; sometimes almost cowardly. A very strong and note worthy performance by an equally noteworthy actor. It’s impossible to watch Robert Berlin perform without becoming a fan. You are sure to see a lot more of him.
Sean (Patrick Duke Conboy) is the closest thing your going to get to a good guy in this film. It appears that he saved Steven’s life during a firefight in Iraq. Although, to me, what occurred is not fully explained in the film. Be that as it may, Sean meets one of his fellow Vets, Jack (neatly played by Christopher Kloko) who introduces him to the disreputable world of subprime real estate. Sean is sometimes cool, often solemn, and fighting PTSD. Again, I am unsure if he is married or just romantically involved with his partner, Tiffany ( a wonderful 5 star performance by Danielle Leaf) who wears a wedding ring while he doesn’t. I must have missed the part which explains this. Sean is conflicted on many levels which adds intensity and suspense to the film. You’re never really sure when this time bomb will explode; or who his victim(s) will be.
Patrick Duke Conboy is an incredibly strong actor. He seized the role of Sean and played it like a fine violin. Every nuance of the character was in sync with all the other performances. Patrick was always on point and keyed in. He will certainly be a force to reckon with. If his agent is nearly as strong as he is, there are big things ahead for this star quality performer.
SCRIPT: As a writer I can almost point out the parts that went through a major rewrite. This can result in some points being softened, and some details crucial to the plot getting dropped. Yet, the script was very well constructed with aptly timed comic relief added at just the right moments. The dialogue was excellent. These people are rough, and the language reflects it. Rating: Script: 3.99 stars for not better explaining the relationship between Sean and his wife/girlfriend, and diluting the battle scene which defined Steven’s relationship to Sean.
MUSIC: Excellent 5 stars
OVERALL: Now the big question: Would I pay to watch this film? An unqualified yes. And I wouldn’t feel in the least bit cheated. A healthy 4.3 stars.
Now that you’ve read this, I would like for you to check the ratings on NETFLIX, or any other service that rates movies. You will see that most of the movies have a 1 to 3 star rating. 3 stars is considered pretty watchable by most viewers. A 4 star rating is simple, it means good…very good, and well worth watching. Keep that in mind when you read my reviews; I don’t hand out 4 stars for average movies. So, if I rate a movie 4 stars or above, jump on it.
Link to the full article by Jim Brantley: The Closer Movie Article