Review: ‘Random Shooting in L.A.’

With its improvisational mise en scene limited to what's seen through the lens of a consumer video camera, anthology pic "Random Shooting in L.A." is an interesting but insubstantial multipart depiction of life in the contempo City of Angels.

With its improvisational mise en scene limited to what’s seen through the lens of a consumer video camera, anthology pic “Random Shooting in L.A.” is an interesting but insubstantial multipart depiction of life in the contempo City of Angels. The novel concept — action seen through a single camera passed around by circumstance from one set of characters to another, with each group’s story usually by a different scribe — is more or less a variation on the 1997 anthology work “Gun,” which tracked the life of a firearm. This new variation takes savvy advantage of video as a medium, but the concept is leagues ahead of the specific ideas in any of the episodes. Midnight screenings and cable dates are in commercial crosshairs.

When the Doovis family flies to L.A. for vacation and ends up in crime hell in Hollywood, their camera goes for a different kind of trip, getting passed from one set of hands to another. Three fun-loving teens play with it for awhile, until a pair of gangsta types robs them and then pawns the camera. Tellingly, there’s always a price someone will pay, even for an item that’s obviously hot.

A husband (Matt Hannigan), wanting to spice up bedroom life with his wife (Jennifer Massey), buys it, but finds that his problems go beyond sex games.

Crucial to the story’s overall shape is how the camera is passed along: Sometimes, as in a mistaken Hollywood carjacking, it’s completely unconvincing; other times, as when a repairman (Milt Kogan) and his son (Matt Gersh) fix the slightly busted camera, the line from character to character can be clever. The son runs off with the camera and records a woman at a club (Kara Zediker) whom he’s obsessed with. When he is beaten up by some of her male friends, Steve (David Hussey) grabs the camera.

This sets up the last and by far the best segment, involving Steve and pal Gary (James Castle Stevens) on a lark around town with the goal of picking up a hooker and having sex with her for free. Their prey is Russian hooker Silyotka (Cathryn De Prume, who also wrote section). She’s taken in by Steve’s nice-guy routine until he reveals his true motives in her home bedroom. But here, as in the other portions, the moral themes are suggested rather than explored.

The shoot-and-run illusion is best maintained when improv dominates, and less so when scenes are clearly written. Just as repeated views of Silyotka working her trade precede her actual appearance, the disappearance of the Doovis’ youngest child is cleverly turned into a running news story strung along from beginning to end. Lensing is, true to title, random at best.

Random Shooting in L.A.

Production

A Collaboration Filmworks production in association with Foundation Films. Produced by Matt Keener. Directed by Jeffrey Delman. Screenplay, Jon Bastian, Cathryn De Prume, Delman, Sam Ingraffia, Matt Keener, Babs Lindsay, D.H. Morgan.

Crew

Camera (color, video), Stephen Timberlake; editor, Paul Gordon; art directors, Trulls Ovrum, Sheila Phalom, Stacie Milmeister; costume designer, Amanda Gore; sound, Perry Crow, Jerry Goldscheiden, Bill Sheehan, Eric Velarde, John Lupacchini; associate producers, Morgan, Faunda Hinton; assistant directors, Hinton, Kevin Biggerstaff. Reviewed on videotape, L.A., Aug. 8, 2002. (In Dances With Films Festival.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Cathryn De Prume, David Hussey, James Castle Stevens, Adam Gersh, Milt Kogan, Matt Hannigan, Jennifer Massey, Kara Zediker, Jane Connelly, Dale Godboldo, Peter Simmons, Jack McGee.
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