Judge Daniel Kelly only makes left turns.
Part Fantasy. Part Mystery. All Pulp.
No Right Turn is a low budget effort with leanings toward the noir genre of old, an ambitious film that suffers from a murky subtext and a frustratingly bad batch of performances. Given the film's obviously miniscule production costs, director David Noel Bourke deserves much praise for creating such a stylish and intentionally grimy world, but ultimately his picture left me yearning for more polished and proficiently acted ventures of the same genre. The movie feels like a film student's wet dream run amok, filled with enthusiasm and grand hopes but doused in disappointing spurts of amateurish filmmaking.
Nina (Laura Bach) is an aspiring actress but is struggling in no small part thanks to her drug dealing boyfriend Johnny (Tao Hildebrand). After a disagreement with Johnny on a night out, Nina leaves early and is raped (in an extremely unconvincing scene), only to be saved by the damaged Monella (Sira Stampe). The pair forms a bond that starts with friendship but descends into something more passionate and erotic, culminating in a plan to steal Johnny's drug stash and get ahead in life.
The performances in No Right Turn are stunted and unconvincing; there is something inherently forced and unnatural about nearly every actor in the production. This may have been intentional given the production's ethereal and otherworldly vibe, but even if it was a deliberate artistic choice, it was a bad one. It's almost impossible to connect with any character on even a grass-roots level, and as the film devolves into more of a straight up crime caper at its conclusion, this is particularly problematic. The audience doesn't really care or understand the people who inhabit Bourke's motion picture and so any degree of empathy or engagement is hopeless. Hildebrand is probably the worst offender; he's animated enough but in the context of the feature, he feels utterly lost in a sea of overacting and nauseating line delivery. It's a case of high marks for effort but low marks for ability or skill. Bach and Stampe don't fit particularly well together and thus large chunks of their respective character arcs feel staged and distractingly contrived.
The dialogue is bland with a few instances of flair—much like the actual narrative. Bourke has edited, directed, and written the affair, so it is in every sense his movie, but he does a ropey job on two of those fronts. The editing should be hypnotic, but instead it is disjointed and creaky whilst the screenplay isn't strong enough to carry a full feature film. Despite its artistically noble intentions, bizarre underlying themes, and visual panache, the picture actually tells a pretty ordinary and unremarkable story. It just isn't a very entertaining or fun way to spend 91 minutes, and cack-handed attempts at cheap titillation don't help much either. Directorially, Bourke gets a passing grade on the convictions of his ideas and the surface level beauty the tale radiates.
Visually, the movie has a distinct look but this is probably a case of style over substance. At times that seems to be all Bourke is focused on and other aspects fall flat, though again I will commend the production on pulling off such a rich look on a minimalist budget. The DVD has a good amount of additional content for an independent venture: a making of featurette isn't great, but an informed and halfway helpful commentary (the movie has an agenda very much open to interpretation) is a nice and—given the picture's nature—totally essential addition. Audition and Rehearsal footage is also included along with deleted material and a challenging Q&A with the director himself. It is relieving to see the release giving so much attention to Bourke's opinions and explanations; otherwise, the enterprise would be completely impenetrable. It's an impressive package, even if the film is just another high-reaching but irritating indie gambit.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lono Entertainment
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