Judge Christopher Kulik would rather spend his nights at the Copacabana.
"Hurry your ass back here. I think it's going to be one of those nights!"
For the Campbell Brothers, the town of Cleveland is a landscape to exploit to the max. For nearly ten years, these guys have been independent filmmakers, with their primary genre being horror. Like all artists, they put their own unique stamp on their works, and Cordoba Nights is no exception.
Lonely pizza delivery guy Finn (Raymond Turturro) seems to be on autopilot every single night cruising the streets of Bronston, Ohio. When his boss Mickey (Duane Whitaker) lets him know that he must work double duty for an absent employee, Finn grumpily accepts as he heads out to deliver over a dozen pies.
At his first stop, he meets Allie (Ashleigh Holeman), a hip young woman who is trying to break away from a relationship with her gangster boyfriend Darren (Chuck Cieslik). Reluctantly, Finn decides to give her a ride and, as they get to know each better, he actually opens himself up to someone for once. Little does he realize, however, that Darren is determined to find her…and kill whoever she's with.
Cordoba Nights is a modest little indie which has a distinct Jim Jarmusch flavor to it, complete with a deadpan comic touch. The Campbells use several stylistic storytelling devices, including effective use of fade outs, slow pans, and transitions. There are some slow spots, but the film definitely overcomes its miniscule budget with flair and sting.
Like many other independents, this was shot entirely on video. However, the film's look haphazardly varies in quality throughout. I believe this was intentional of the filmmakers, as the outdoor scenes have an extremely grainy, almost out-of-focus look to them, which exhibits grimness. The indoor scenes are much more clean and sharp, and yet still are flawed. The result feels like a low budget 70s or 80s flick, and much of the atmosphere even evokes that era, especially Darren's retro apartment.
Complementing the film's visual style are two fine lead performances. Raymond Turturro believably wakes up from his slumber as the film moves along, while Holeman is appropriately high-spirited and alive. By the end, you feel like you have known them for a long time, and even wish to spend more time with them. They both make their characters subtle and real, with just a dash of dimension. (Finn's nostalgia is cleverly emphasized by making him listen to phonograph records in his car.)
Available exclusively through the production company's website, Cordoba Nights comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, along with a surprising number of extras. First up is a featurette, "A Cordoba in Bronston," which contains interviews with Turturro and two of the supporting actors. We also have a couple of deleted scenes as well as a trailer.
Verdict: Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Compound Pictures
• "A Cordoba in Bronston"
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