Three actors and their director can't get "into the moment" in staging a campus play about a bank robbery in "The Method." Their solution: Stage a for-real robbery. As the twist in a half-hour anthology show, climactic heist might have worked, but after an hour's worth of lame baiting and soul-baring, it's more laughable than ironic. This attempt at a talky Tarantino-Mamet hybrid has zero commercial appeal, but adequate production design makes it an OK calling card for its USC alum filmmakers.

Three actors and their director can’t get “into the moment” in staging a campus play about a bank robbery in “The Method.” Their solution: Stage a for-real robbery. As the twist in a half-hour anthology show, climactic heist might have worked, but after an hour’s worth of lame baiting and soul-baring, it’s more laughable than ironic. This attempt at a talky Tarantino-Mamet hybrid has zero commercial appeal, but adequate production design makes it an OK calling card for its USC alum filmmakers.

Sean Patrick Flanery (“Powder”), Michael Bondies and Tyrin Turner are college thesps in search of inspiration. Each gives it the old college try but can’t carry the formulaic script, which pigeonholes Flanery as an intense, always-scheming Lothario, Bondies as a naive nice guy, and Turner as an erstwhile gangbanger plagued by his past.

Nick Sadler rounds out quartet as the playwright-director who’s either haranguing or psychoanalyzing his cast. Sample observation: “I see it as Shakespeare did — all the world’s a stage.” Biggest of pic’s many unintentional hoots has Sadler bolstering cast’s motivation with a bag-full of real guns to “open the power inside you.”

Robert Forster provides all-too-brief backbone as Flanery’s hard-nosed dad, and the late Dennis James delivers a straight-faced turn as college’s bottom-line dean.

Lensing goes in for jarring rack-focus and “Reservoir Dogs”-inspired slow-mo, while a rainy-eve rendezvous between Bondies and Natasha Wagner plays like outtake from John Ford’s “The Hurricane.” Techno-pop score is serviceable for bank finale, but is mostly Eno-saccharine and at odds with backstage histrionics.

Lewis sets up the climactic bank-casing with superimposed proscenium curtain, a nice touch that leads one to expect a fun turnabout that never materializes. Like the too-tightly wound cast, helmer has taken this talky Stanis-standoff far too seriously.

The Method

Production

A Showcast Entertainment presentation in association with Roundtable Entertainment of an Albert Kodagolian production. Produced by Kevin Lewis. Executive producers, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Harbert. Co-executive producers, Miles Levy, Randy James, David Hagberg. Directed by Kevin Lewis. Screenplay, Lewis, Troy Scott. Camera (Foto-Kem color), Christopher Crook, Gregory Reeves; editor, Russell Livingstone; music, Scottland Olds Harbert; casting, Carol Lefko. Reviewed on videocassette, San Jose, Oct. 16, 1997. Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Jack ..... Nick Sadler Christian ..... Sean Patrick Flanery Alex ..... Michael Bondies Kelly ..... Natasha Wagner Damian ..... Tyrin Turner The Father ..... Robert Forster The Dean ..... Dennis James
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