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‘A Single Shot’ Is Both Widely Suspenseful and Comfortably Predictable

‘A Single Shot’ Is Both Widely Suspenseful and Comfortably Predictable


A Single Shot
USA, 2013
Directed by David M. Rosenthal

When John Moon (Sam Rockwell) accidentally shoots a young woman and discovers a bag full of cash, he has to make the fateful decision whether to provide for his separating family or come out clean. His struggle to conceal both the death and the money formulates a whirlwind of consequences that ultimately heightens into a battle for survival. With overall great performances by Rockwell and Jeffrey Wright (Simon), the film is both widely suspenseful and comfortably predictable. Treading the line of a Hitchcockian thriller, the film definitely tests the limits of an ordinary man as he takes on plight to stay alive. With some of the year’s most surprising scenes, A Single Shot will bring you to the edge of your seat and shock you, making it by far one of the best films debuted at Tribeca 2013 this year.

Hitchcock has been brought up on many occasions this year to compare likeminded works such as Soderbergh’s Side Effects, Park’s Stoker and can very well contest to Rosenthal’s A Single Shot even more so. Suspense is a key factor to the film’s greatness, outlined by Matthew F. Jones’ solidly written novel and screenplay, and yet also play’s to its predictable formula. Like many Hitchcock films, in A Single Shot an ordinary man is placed under extraordinary circumstances. For John Moon, we get it in the form of a country man, uneducated, lacking stability in work with a slew of financial and family issues despite his kind nature. When he accidently kills a mysterious women while deer hunting, her abandoned cash seems to be the answer to his lingering woes. Untraceable (or so he thinks), accidental and isolated in a rural wasteland, it seems to be the perfect secret, but the events that follow Moon soon makes him realize it is the worst mistake ever. Every step he takes is filled with unnerving paranoia, of which the audience is aware of unlike the character’s acknowledgement, typical of Hitchcock. Three scenes in particular, encompass the suspense of the film’s entirety, making up its hook, midpoint and ending. All extremely well executed, but indeed begs the question of the film’s formula. If a film possesses three memorable scenes, while the rest is more or less forgettable, should it be contrived as a great film to watch? To some, three is a charm, but to others, predictability comes about when the film’s legs are mapped out to us so generically. Ultimately, it’s up to the audience to decide.

a_single_shot_movieMore or less, the actors in the film are underutilized. Rockwell gives a believable performance of both troubling and heroic struggles, while William Macy and Kelly Reilly are lacking throughout most of the runtime. By far the most pleasant surprise was that of Jeffrey Wright’s inebriate. Unlike Wright’s typical straight-edge suit fare, A Single Shot portrays a different side of the supporting actor. A side that is enwrapped with incoherent country jabbers mixed with irrevocable desperation, characterizing Simon as someone with more depth than what appears on the surface. Wright’s performance alone is worth the price of admission. Chock full of surprises from acting to suspense,  A Single Shot enjoys riding the line of shock and familiarity. It plays it safe while going that little bit of an extra mile. Sure you may forget details as soon as you leave the theater, and perhaps it’s not Rockwell’s most memorable performance, but the scenes that stick out will stay with you for some time to come.

– Chris Clemente