Lamentably misogynistic yet tautly written and briskly directed, “Jacks or Better” won’t win over many women. Acrid tone notwithstanding, this provocative, well-acted feature debut from Robert Sidney Mellette shows promise for helmer-scribe.
Mom (Gathering Marbet) is in the kitchen with a knife through her chest; Dad (Jack Wallace) is in the living room preparing for his weekly poker game. Son Trip (lethally attractive Nathan Anderson) knows Dad’s guilty. This much is clear in pic’s opening minutes. But what prompted Jack to kill her, and how he deals with his actions once his buddies arrive, occupy the rest of a story that could have been a much more effective, and perhaps less offensive, play. (Mellette seems to take a little too much pleasure in cutting back to the bloody, half-naked woman in the kitchen.) Tale’s strict spatial and temporal structure would suit the stage well. When his pals arrive, Jack pretends nothing has happened, but must face Trip’s taunting equivocations. Whether and how he’ll cave, and what may be revealed over the evening are the questions that require more than a mild suspension of disbelief.