Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Sam Rockwell stars as John Moon, a lifelong rancher who just can’t manage to keep a traditional job after his father’s farm was foreclosed on years back. Separated from his wife and young son, John is desperate to put his family back together. While out hunting deer during the dawning hours of a foggy morning, John mistakenly shoots and kills a young woman walking through the forest brush. Panicked, he tries to hide the body in an abandoned storage container in the woods when he stumbles across a hidden stash of money in a makeshift shelter. Seeing it as a way to get out of his financial problems and put his family back together, John takes the money, setting in motion a life and death game of cat and mouse as the backwoods criminals return looking for their money.
The feature aspect of A Single Shot is the panoramic cinematography and skillful use of the stark, wooded surroundings. Shot in pronounced widescreen using Panavision technology, director David M. Rosenthal visually encapsulates the solitude of the secluded arboreal areas. Bleak, murky, and full of dark shadows that are intensified by the endless haze of fog, the wooded landscapes help add to the overtly suspenseful and ominous tone that is only accentuated by the film’s menacing and dreary score.
I find it mystifying how under-appreciated Sam Rockwell continues to be considering he remains one of the most diversely gifted actors working today. In A Single Shot, Rockwell offers yet another uniquely adroit performance, personifying a simple minded man whose dogged pursuit to reunite his broken family is blinding him from the growing dangers his bad decision has created. Along with Rockwell is a supporting cast that includes acting veterans Ted Levine and Jeffrey Wright and is highlighted by the exceptional William H. Macy, who perfectly portrays a jittery and peculiar small town attorney whose knowledge and involvement in the goings-on are left ambiguously murky. It was also great to see Kelly Reilly again after her impressive breakout performance in the 2012 thriller Flight. However, in the end I was disappointed that the scope of her role did not allow her to truly show off her dramatic talents.
Slow and methodical pacing can add an extra level of chilling tension to a crime drama of this nature (i.e. No Country For Old Men), but unfortunately the deliberate tempo of A Single Shot became more of a hindrance to the overall enjoyment of the film. I also had issues with the inevitable and all too predictably familiar double crosses between the various stereotypical criminal types and with an ending that I’m guessing was supposed to have a feeling of catharsis but ended up coming off as bit flat and anti-climactic for all the buildup that preceded it.
Overall I don’t regret watching A Single Shot. I always jump at the chance to see Sam Rockwell show off his chameleonic acting talents, and his performance didn’t disappoint. But, I must admit with the gifted supporting talent brought in, I had higher expectations for this film than what it ultimately gives. A Single Shot is an opportunity ultimately wasted.-JL