Chicago International Film Festival 2011
Directed by: Brian Jun Cast: Mark Pellegrino, Alicia Witt, Tom Guiry Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins Rating: NR Release Date: TBD
PLOT: An ex-con (Pellegrino) finds himself caught up in a murder investigation after falling for the wrong woman (Witt).
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of quiet crime dramas with a hint of blue collar neo-noir will find themselves at least intrigued by this movie. Other than that, the only real audience for are die-hard fans of the cast.
Joint Body is, at its best, an exercise in proficient filmmaking. It’s beautifully shot, capturing a sort of gritty beauty that one can only find in the Midwest. At its worst, it’s a half-baked neo-noir that simmers before spitting one last spark before its flame goes out. Unfortunately, Joint Body is far more memorable at its worst.
The film follows an ex-con, Nick Burke, as he attempts to re-adjust to life outside of prison. Along the way, he crosses paths with the wrong woman, Michelle Page. From there, he finds himself drawn back into an uncertain life that he has tried so hard to escape. Somewhere in there, director Brian Jun tries to sell his audience on Burke’s attempts to re-connect with the daughter he left behind in prison. But that is just the problem with Joint Body. For a film with “joint” in the title, it doesn’t seem too be asking too much for a little cohesion, but the film feels very disjointed.
In noir, morally dubious characters and double-crosses are pretty much par for the course. Jun tries to pass off this lazy filmmaking as “noir” with a number of supposed twists and turns, but never enough to buy it. Honestly, more often than not, the treachery feels more like character inconsistency. It would be one thing is this was a problem for the femme fatale of the piece, but every other character felt just as haphazardly thrown together.
The film would almost be a complete wash if it weren’t for the efforts of the tragically underrated Mark Pellegrino. Pellegrino portrays Nick Burke with a sort of misplaced tenderness. The film never truly explains the violent nature of his offenses and we’re never treated to any real violence or volatile moments with Burke. Instead, we see the man reformed. We see the man who misses his daughter and will do anything to get her back. Unfortunately, this sub-plot merely bookends the movie. Whether this was intentional or not is debatable, but Pellegrino’s heartfelt emotional plea to see his daughter is easily the most sincere and compelling portion of the movie. If the movie had been completely about a man and his daughter, I would have gladly watched, but the film veers off into an uninteresting wasteland of tired plot devices. Ultimately, even a fine actor can only do so much with a mediocre script and Jun’s screenplay ends up getting the better of Pellegrino.
Aside from an impressive performance from Mark Pellegrino and some beautifully somber shots, Joint Body falters with its noir origins. It never has the conviction to make any of its characters outright unlikeable, but forces its audience to wade in indifference. In the end, the film suffers for its subtlety which comes off as half-hearted and insincere noir imitation.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10