Vanguard Cinema // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // October 21st, 2009
You can change your lot in life.
Major aspirations for greatness aside, there's little to distinguish The Local from countless other drug movies we've seen before. It's a shame, too, because this was clearly intended to be great.
Noname (Dan Eberle, JailCity) is a low-level drug courier whose life has been thrown off balance by some recent conflict in his gang. Now, he has to start over, trying to please the cruel and violent members of the gang. When things look like they couldn't get any worse, he is approached by a wealthy man who wants his daughter Claire (Maya Ferrara) rescued from her drug addicted existence. Getting her out of the building alive is going to be tough, though.
The Local describes itself as an "existential neo-noir-suspense-thriller." What exactly, I wondered as I sat down to watch the film, is an existential thriller? Does it reject the notion of an all-powerful creator? Is it a thriller that believes it's fully responsible for its own actions? Is the main character trapped in an absurd existence without any real purpose? Perhaps the marketing department just wanted to make it sound impressive.
Instead, it comes from the film's vague sense of purposelessness. It meanders from scene to scene, far more invested in making interesting shots than in creating a compelling and meaningful story. While it is crammed full of crime movie stereotypes, it actually doesn't remind me of other crime movies so much as a film version of Grand Theft Auto. The nameless main character is sent on a series of individual missions, and eventually a larger story forms about kidnapping the druggy daughter of a rich man. These sequences are attached with the thinnest of plots, sometimes simply leaping from one location to another. It's the moments here that are supposed to be important, not the overall structure.
I suppose it's possible that The Local is mildly existentialist in that is claims that existence precedes essence: Noname does get to make decisions that change his own nature. Unfortunately, it's also a film that tends to meander a bit without purpose. It's rare that I complain that a 90 minute film is too long, but there are several sequences and characters in The Local that are entirely unnecessary. More troubling is the fact that The Local wants to be both a freefloating existential take on the crime movie as well as a visceral action picture. The two approaches don't go well together.
The disc looks about as good as you would expect from a film shot in standard definition digital. If it's shot on any better source than that, it doesn't show here. The sound is also pretty rocky, but the film does showcase some decent handheld camera work and music mixing. Eberle is trying to show off how well he can make movies, and sometimes takes the stylistic touches a bit too far. There were no special features on my screening disc.
In all, though, I suppose you could do worse than The Local. At least has aspirations of greatness. I would rather see that than a direct-to-video sequel any day. Here, falling short of greatness is a failure, rather than a goal. It simply lacks the creativity required to make something truly fresh and new. Eberle may have a good movie in him yet, but I think he will be remembered as a better actor than a director.
Guilty as charged.
Review content copyright © 2009 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Vanguard Cinema
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated