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Case Number 17747

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Skills Like This

New Video // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 20th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson has skills. They're not applicable in the real world, but he has them.

The Charge

Everybody wants to be somebody.

Opening Statement

What happens when you realize you'll never being anything more than mediocre at your dream? This existential crisis and its ridiculous fallout are explored in one of the more offbeat, energetic, and amusing indie comedies I've seen in some time.

Facts of the Case

Max Solomon (Spencer Berger, who also wrote the film) is a playwright who, after the atrocious showing of his most recent effort, comes to the painful conclusion that he just flat-out sucks as a writer. Adrift in his life goals, he decides to rob a bank—and pulls it off, discovering he loves the thrill. His dopey friend Tommy thinks this is just the greatest thing ever, despite the misgivings of their other friend, Dave, the straight-laced corporate drone.

Soon enough, Max can't stop stealing, thrilled by the fact that he's found something he's actually good at. Also thrilling: the hot bank teller (Kerry Knuppe).

The Evidence

I enjoyed this film and, if you're looking for a unique, smart, somewhat dark comedy, I think you will, too. First-time director Monty Miranda takes Berger's playful script and gives it an ample amount of juice, crafting a flick that pops.

The enterprise is anchored by Berger, a charismatic guy who offers up a character that could have been a tedious, sarcastic, look-at-how-cool-I-am hipster (and indeed that was the direction I felt for sure he was taking him after the first few minutes or so), but instead turns out to be a vulnerable and sincere man totally unbuoyed to life. Stealing becomes a drug, an escape, and Berger and Miranda play the angle for laughs, but never glorify it. In fact, Max's addiction to stealing bears increasingly rotten fruit. The anchor and conscience for Max is Lucy the teller, played with a nice touch by Knuppe, who calls him on his increasingly bizarre shenanigans. A death in the family also helps pull Max around towards maturity, which is really what this film is about: growing up.

I know it all sounds heavy-duty, but that's not the tone these guys are after. Skills Like This is first a comedy. Unfortunately, the humor proved to be the film's biggest shortcoming. Though there was a small amount of laughs—given to us primarily by Max's two friends—the outing as a whole simply wasn't funny enough to recommend as straight-out laugh-fest. I guess "dramedy," as much as I despise that word, would be more accurate.

If that doesn't bother you, and the concept appeals, consider giving this a spin. It's always satisfying to stumble on cool little movies you never saw coming. Although, if you're reading this review, I suppose you do see this one coming. Whatever—recommended.

The DVD is solid: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen holds up well, as does the 2.0 stereo mix. Extras include interviews, deleted scenes, and footage of their South by Southwest award acceptance.

Closing Statement

It's not packed with hilarity, but the quirk factor is high and the themes are interesting. Skills Like This is a nifty under-the-radar feature.

The Verdict

Not Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: New Video
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Drama
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurette
• Interviews


• IMDb

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