You know those movies that rely on the character doing really stupid things to get the plot underway, and then to keep it going? A Single Shot is one of those. But as the story plays out, you discover Sam Rockwell’s hapless backwoods hunter isn’t doing what he’s doing just because he’s stupid. This is a movie about a small, powerless, and deeply frustrated man at the tail end of a series of bad decisions, trying to keep terrible situations from getting worse. Rockwell’s likability and charm occasionally surface, but they’re buried under a layer of pain and confusion, hidden behind his considerable beard and furrowed brow. This is yet another role that establishes Rockwell as a Serious Actor. See also Moon and Assassination of Jesse James.
A Single Shot is an atmospheric slow-burn hillbilly noir that knows noir is at its best when it’s uncompromisingly bleak. In addition to Rockwell, it features a cast of memorable actors (brace yourself for a searingly good Jeffrey Wright performance) drawling the script’s dense hillbilly argot so well that you can’t always tell what they’re saying. But you don’t need to. The inevitable events will carry you along, just as they do Rockwell’s character. You’re not here to untangle the plot so much as you’re here to watch one man dig himself a deep hole. Imagine a Chinatown in the damp hills of West Virginia, but without someone as sharp as Jake Gittes to unravel the threads.
Nothing on director David Rosenthal’s short list of slight films suggests he’d do a movie this dark, languid, rural, and uncompromising. Nothing on composer Atli Orvarsson’s list of credits suggests he could do a score this eerie and quiet. Edward Grau’s gloomy cinematography is spectacular, which is no surprise from the man who shot in the dark confines of Buried (Ryan Reynolds in a coffin), the moody atmosphere of The Awakening (Rebecca Hall in a haunted Victorian manor), and the lush period fashion of A Single Man (Colin Firth in bitchin’ Italian glasses). This is one to stream in HD or hold out for the Blu Ray.
A Single Shot is available for VOD. Watch in on Amazon.com to support Qt3.