It’s one thing to attempt a gritty re-creation of 1970s private-eye dramas; it’s not the same if that attempt feels entirely filtered through the Tarantino-clone sensibilities of the 1990s. Writer/director Dennis Hauck follows a Los Angeles P.I. named Mel Sampson (John Hawkes) after a call he receives from a young stripper named Dorothy (Crystal Reed) entangles him in murder and other assorted sleaziness. Hauck fashions virtually the entirety of the narrative through five individual one-reel-long continuous shots, each one covering a specific moment in the achronological story. And the gimmick is profoundly distracting, offering little in the way of emotional immediacy to balance the look-at-me spacial choreography. Indeed, emotion of any kind is woefully lacking, with relationships that appear out of nowhere and never have a chance to build real potency through all the self-consciously rat-a-tat dialogue. Hawkes provides the kind of hangdog presence that gives a story like this a shot at real weight, and the unique structure at least keeps it interesting. But it’s only the superficial interesting-ness of a movie that’s less concerned with telling a gripping story than loudly announcing its movie-ness.
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