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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ODD MAN OUT -- DVD Review by Porfle

As I've said before, it's alway a treat to sit down to a movie that I don't have very high expectations for and be pleasantly surprised. And in the case of the low-budget, Texas-lensed indy flick ODD MAN OUT (2014), I was not only pleasantly surprised but thoroughly impressed with every aspect of this finely-rendered thriller.

This is a prime example of how talent separates the hack filmmakers from the ones who can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. First-time writer/director Michael Crabtree, a prolific actor in such films as TENDER MERCIES and THE ALAMO, has a compelling visual style that brings his razor-sharp screenplay to life with the help of a top-notch cast.

Matthew Tompkins (MISSIONARY MAN) is Mike Turner, an enigmatic prodigal son who returns home after many years to find his paraplegic brother Matt (Chuck Huber, "Dragon Ball Z") and vivacious sister-in-law Gracie (Angela Chase, THE LIFE EXPERIMENT) caring for Mike and Matt's near-catatonic mother (Gail Cronauer, JFK, THE NEWTON BOYS) in an attractive new house built where the old family home once stood.

What the rest of the family doesn't know, however, is that Mike has spent much of his time away in a mental hospital, and although he's been released, he still isn't quite right in the head. Two things really trouble him--a photographic memory that haunts him with constant replays of his most traumatic experiences (of which this family shares many), and the fact that his longtime obsession with Gracie is entering an advanced stage along with his jealous resentment toward Matt.

Tompkins handles Mike's barely suppressed but growing instability and emotional conflicts with a deft touch that makes us wonder whether he'll be able to remain in control or snap at any moment. Gail Cronauer gets a chance to show her stuff when mother and son finally clear the air between them in a scene that ends on a disturbing note. Another interesting character is Matt's simpleminded employee Orvis Scuttle (Jonathan Brooks, TRIGUN: BADLANDS RUMBLE), whose instinctive distrust of Mike from the get-go proves surprisingly perceptive.

While appreciating the film's performances, one can also savor some deftly-handled cinematography, editing, and sound design, along with a very listenable score. In fact, after awhile we tend to forget that we're watching a low-budget film and simply get caught up in the overall experience.

Director Crabtree, meanwhile, lets his story start out nice and slow and then gradually take hold of our attention until finally we're riveted by a suspenseful finale which takes place within Matt's drafty antiques warehouse. This shadowy maze of arcane artifacts makes an ideal visual backdrop for what happens when Mike's true self slips its restraints.

(The screener I received from Indican and Wolfclan Productions looks like a preliminary version of the DVD, so I won't comment on any technical details.)

With ODD MAN OUT, what starts as a leisurely but quietly troubling character study is really a slow fuse burning inexorably toward a sizzling climax. But in this seemingly modest effort, it's the discovery of something truly imaginative and superbly wrought that makes the experience so satisfying.

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