HWIC Filmworks // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Rogers (Retired) // June 22nd, 2011
I think the quiet arrangement spoken of in the title alludes to some sort of deal struck with the Devil and the director of this film.
For 4 years while I was in high school I worked at an independent video store, and part of my job was to process DVDs for rental each Tuesday. This meant opening up hundreds upon hundreds of DVDs, God forbid they ever have 3 security stickers on them, and then slapping them in rental cases with scan stickers and security tape. Between my employee perk of getting free rentals and the massive amount of DVD cases I had to open, I developed a rule of thumb for the quality of a film. The worse a case smelled the chance of the movie sucking grew exponentially. Obviously this is not an absolute seeing as how Anchor Bay's Book of the Dead edition of The Evil Dead is probably one of the worst smelling DVDs man has ever created, with its scent falling somewhere in between flaming rubber and latex that's been thrown up on and left out in the Sun. But it's hard to argue against the merits of the film. On the flip side though is Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was an incredibly noxious film that came in a faux-chocolate smelling case that also had its own noxious quality to it. So my rule of thumb is more hit than miss.
The Quiet Arrangement comes in a case that smells like equal parts sexual fluids, the inside of a Halloween mask and the outside of a Filipino sweatshop. Take from that what you will.
There's a wronged lawyer, a couple of cops, a grimy bad guy here and there, a kidnapped wife, a hitman and a bag of money all tied together in a film that will test your patience for student films.
Poorly acted, poorly lit, poorly shot, and poorly directed; these are the main things you're going to take away from this film. The Quiet Arrangement comes off as some horribly clichéd community theatre stage production; the kind of show where even family members would have to be begged to come see these people on stage. Let's take this one point at a time though, starting with the acting. Every single person that steps on camera for the duration of the film acts as if they're either on so many anti-depressant meds that it's impossible for them to grasp the concept of emotion or they act in such an operatic way that any notion of subtlety is taken behind a shed and shot. If there weren't cue cards floating behind the camera during every shot then I would be utterly surprised.
As for the lighting, I probably haven't seen a worse lit film since Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem. Everything is swallowed in darkness and the way the actors are lit makes them look jaundice or pale. You can barely make a thing out during the course of the film. I also wouldn't be surprised if Helen Keller's ghost was giving the cinematographer cues. It's obvious that the creative forces behind this picture were aiming for that film noirish vibe, God knows they attempted it with the screenplay, but there's a difference between hauntingly beautiful and ominous noir lighting like can be seen in Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter and the kind of Intro to Film Production style lighting we get here. I should probably smack myself a little bit for bringing up these two films in the same sentence.
As a third strike against this picture I should talk about the screenplay...oh God the screenplay. There's nothing really new here, nothing we haven't seen a thousand times before. The Quiet Arrangement consists of nothing more than half baked "homages" and assemblages of conventions from far greater crime pictures. These are all thrown into a blender, filtered through a 15 year old's ADHD rattled mind and dusted off with a certain sense of Tarantino emulation before it's all vomited up on the screen for all to see. Characters speak in this attempted hard boiled style dialogue that doesn't sound authentic as much as it sounds like a white guy attempting to seem hard. There's nothing here that's going to surprise you or make you stand up and take notice. The film's attempt to screw around with narrative structure and perspective again reeks like Tarantino. Not so much purely because this is Tarantino's shtick but also because of how it's employed in a narrative stocked with dime store gangsters who speak in a way that no other human being ever has. Tarantino can pull it off when he's at the top of his form, but it just does not work here at all. It's a film that attempts nothing new nor does it strive to recapitulate its own tired genre. Because of that this film deserves absolutely none of your attention, time or patience.
A final mark against this film is David Snyder's directing. Shot on low quality DV cameras, it's spastic and convoluted both in composition and focus. The camera almost never wants to settle down for more than a second. The concept of framing is almost non-existent as the camera jumbles around even on shots that cry out for a tripod. Some of the angles that Snyder chooses for his camera to be placed at have probably never been thought of by any other director, and that's meant in the worst possible way. It's a film that was obviously shot fast and on a dime and it shows. Combine this with the horrible lighting and I started to develop a headache by the second act.
This all sounds horribly cynical and mean spirited on my part, and I won't argue against that, but this truly is the kind of film that has no redeeming value whatsoever. There's nothing enjoyable, original or worthwhile here and because of that it deserves none of your time. Even the music to this film is a nebulous web of sounds strung together with no connection other than that they all sound ominous or foreboding.
The transfer on this disc is about as good as you can expect it to be for a film shot with low quality DV cameras and poorly lit. There's a horrible DV grain that's constant throughout and the black levels are erratic. Colors never seem to be true to form; they're either overly saturated or completely lifeless. The audio track on this disc, which is in stereo, is neither outstanding nor subpar. It just simply is.
The one good aspect of this disc is that it is absolutely loaded with special features. There are two separate commentaries, one with just the director and the other with a host of actors and the director. They're not substantial whatsoever however. They contain about what you'd expect from boring commentaries. You also get what's billed as a documentary about the making of the film. Why they want to get all elegant with it instead of just calling it a making of featurette is beyond me. Up next there are deleted/extended scenes and an alternate ending, all with optional commentary. And to round out the special features are two short films and a couple of music videos by David Snyder (oh my), and a collection of trailers.
I tried to find something redeeming in this film, I truly did. I tried to keep my eyes peeled for those single second moments of inspiration or cleverness that you can find in almost any film. But there honestly was not a single one of them. Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I was watching it or something. Maybe I was in a frame of mind that just simply didn't want to enjoy anything at all, or maybe I truly am the jaded and hard-to-please cinema goer that people constantly tell me that I am. Or maybe The Quiet Arrangement really is as bad as I thought it was.
Seek elsewhere for your hard boiled crime film kicks.
Guilty on every last level.
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Rogers; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: HWIC Filmworks
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Endings
* Music Videos
* Short Films
* Official Site