Fallout” is a respectable low-budget bow whose script only fitfully measures up to the pic’s interesting premise. Drama about four bank employees trapped in a nuclear shelter over a long weekend looks set for Euroweb dates but lacks the necessary dramatic smarts to make much of a theatrical impact.
Opening reel concisely sets up the office politics in a Gotham bank, where veteran employee Dan (David Wasson) gets canned for approving a bad loan. Bringing him the bad news is corporate skirt Rachel (Claire Beckman), who also tells him that Will (Keith Randolph Smith), the guy who recommended the loan, is to get his job. Dan’s young assistant, Joseph (Mark Deakins), claims he knew nothing about what was going on.
All hell breaks loose when the fire alarm goes off and the building starts to shake. Falling in with one another by chance, the four head for the basement, where they hit a dead end in the building’s fallout shelter. With only a large bottle of water between them, they start an edgy descent to almost certain death , exacerbated by the fact that none of them knows what has happened in the outside world.
It’s a bold but risky idea for a first feature by Philadelphia film school grad Robert Palumbo: Shooting in a single, confined location, everything depends on his cast and dialogue. The four principals give it their best shot, and the hard-bitten Beckman and nice-guy Smith come out tops, with the best-written parts.
What’s missing, however, is any sense of sustained drama or tension. Constructed in short cuts, the dialogue rarely builds a head of steam or develops any interesting ideas. Most of the conflict is either physical or work-related, and the moments of sex or violence seem arbitrary or simply unbelievable, given the short time span and lack of real character development. Wasson’s role, in particular, is overheated.
Technically, Palumbo does a pro job, given the single location (actually Philly’s city hall basement), three-week shoot and obvious lack of coin. Frank Ferrucci’s music adds needed atmosphere. Despite the pic’s faults, Palumbo is still a director to watch.