Robert Archer Lynn's exhilaratingly bleak beat-the-clock thriller brings a high-tech twist to the frenetic fatalism of classic film noir. Shot almost entirely in one continuous DV take, in and around the streets of Nashville, "Adrenaline" is impressively resourceful in its stripped-to-essentials approach to generating and sustaining suspense.
Robert Archer Lynn’s exhilaratingly bleak beat-the-clock thriller brings a high-tech twist to the frenetic fatalism of classic film noir. Shot almost entirely in one continuous DV take, in and around the streets of Nashville, “Adrenaline” is impressively resourceful in its stripped-to-essentials approach to generating and sustaining suspense. At the very least, this small-budget indie should enjoy wide festival exposure and serve as a calling card for many parties involved. A savvy distrib even might be able to milk modest coinage from limited theatrical runs.Opening minutes economically establish Chris Thompson (co-scripter David Alford) as a successful businessman — indeed, perhaps a tad too smugly successful — who’s the proud new owner of an SUV tricked out with hands-free phone, satellite-system navigation and a 24/7 operator-assisted help line. But Chris’ comfortable life takes a detour into terror when someone hacks into the sat-assist system and announces via phone that the businessman’s daughter has been kidnapped. If he wants to see his child alive again, Chris must follow all orders by an unseen antagonist (voiced by Reed Diamond) who follows his every move, taunts him with quotes from Shakespeare and plans to use him as an unwilling accomplice in a bank robbery. The basic premise may echo several earlier films — everything from Sidney J. Furie’s “The Naked Runner” (1967) to John Badham’s “Nick of Time” (1995) — but the efficient execution sets “Adrenaline” apart as uniquely satisfying. Lynn deftly sprinkles portents and red herrings in the margins and background (TV and radio newscasts pointedly reference a failed bank heist) while remaining tightly focused on an Everyman protagonist driven by fear, rage and desperation. The finale is a bit of a cheat, resorting to a clever yet unnecessary flashback that disrupts the real-time flow, but it comes too late to spoil the fun. On camera virtually every second, Alford (artistic director of Nashville’s Tennessee Repertory Theater) makes Chris an arrestingly sympathetic figure, particularly during those moments when the businessman demonstrates how panic can fuel inspiration and improvisation. And even though he never appears onscreen, Diamond is effectively fearsome as the seemingly omniscient villain. “Adrenaline” likely will reward repeat viewings by film buffs and filmmaker wannabes who want to appreciate how much pre-production planning must have been required for the pic’s central gimmick to work. The washed-out colors of the digital-video visuals actually serve to enhance the overall noirish mood.