Saturday 16 April 2016

Close Range

Aside from the obvious visuals and acting, there are two things that are really important to me when watching a film – storyline and character development. It’s almost impossible to create an incredible film without these two details, and this is sadly an issue I found with Close Range, directed by Isaac Florentine. After managing to save his niece from being kidnapped by a powerful and well-known Mexican drug cartel, ex-soldier Colton Macready (Scott Adkins) has only limited time to save his family from being taken out by them. Once his niece Hailey (Madison Lawlor) is safely back at home, Colton is pursued by the local corrupt Sheriff and his deputies for killing several men, whilst also trying to take down the Mexican cartel that are after him for the mysterious flash drive that he obtained getting Hailey to safety. 

Close Range, out now on DVD, is a film with quite a low budget, and so I wasn’t expecting too much to begin with. I was pleasantly surprised with lot of things – the music is really fitting, and there are some really good tracking shots throughout the film. It’s an exciting film to watch (the car chase scenes work particularly well), and Scott Adkins is cast well as Colton, and gives a very good lead performance.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. We only ever see what is happening in the present – there’ no backstory, or perspective. We come across lots of different characters, from Macready’s sister and her no-good partner to the corrupt Sheriff and a whole host of angry Mexicans, but they never develop into anything more – they’re all exactly the same as when the film started. Even Hailey, who has just been kidnapped, watched her stepfather die, and then found herself in the middle of a shoot-out, seems to have regained perfect composure at the end of the film and suffered no lasting trauma whatsoever. Because there’s no development, it makes the characters unbelievable – Colton’s sister, Angela (Caitlin Keats) seems perfectly on board with what’s going on, yet we’re given no insight into why she’s so unfazed when her own daughter could potentially die. The sheriff makes little sense either – we know that he has a young son, but we also have no idea why he’s corrupt in the first place (or why he’s employed such useless colleagues).

I found myself asking a lot of questions – a good thing, as it shows that the film was engaging, but they sadly never got answered. What things had the step-father, Walt, done in the past to make him like he is now? How did being a soldier affect Colton, and where has he been all this time? Why is there  helicopter on the front cover when no helicopter appears in the movie?! (Okay, this one is less important. But still…)

It needed more development but, if anything, it also needed to be more simplistic. It’s easy to go wrong when you’re trying to make something complex on a low budget, so sometimes it is better off just stripping it back to basics. There was no need for so many different editing styles to be used,  and we didn’t need to see bullets lodged in people’s heads – the concept can be achieved far more effectively (and at a much reduced cost) if a subtler shot is used. There was too much telling, and not enough showing – sometimes the audience doesn’t need to be spoon-fed.

What it lacked in, it did make up with some great action scenes. Again, simpler would have been better (you can tell from some of the choreography that Florentine has directed episodes of Power Rangers in the past), but it was fast-paced, exciting, and allowed Adkins to showcase why he’s a good choice for action movies. There were guns, knives, cars, and some wonderfully disturbing injuries that all made for good viewing.

It was still enjoyable to watch, despite the lack of plot, so I’m going to give it 2/5.


Hannah Read

Close Range at CeX

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