×

A Single Shot

"A Single Shot" aims to serve up gritty backwoods noir but misses its target by some distance.

With:
John Moon - Sam Rockwell
Simon - Jeffrey Wright
Pitt - William H. Macy
Jess - Kelly Reilly
Waylon - Jason Isaacs
Obadiah - Joe Anderson
Abbie - Ophelia Lovibond
Puffy - W. Earl Brown
Cecil - Ted Levine
Carla - Amy Sloan
Colette - Jenica Bergere
Mincy - Heather Lind
Dead Girl Ingrid - Christie Burke

A Single Shot” aims to serve up gritty backwoods noir but misses its target by some distance. Although this yarn about the violent repercussions triggered by an accidental shooting boasts a strong cast on paper, including Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright and William H. Macy, it’s marred by cliches bred in its wintry bones by Matthew F. Jones’ adaptation of his own novel, not helped by hackneyed helming from David S. Rosenthal (“Janie Jones”). Basically genre pulp with so-so moments, “Shot” should see some action in ancillary but has limited theatrical prospects and looks out of place on the fest circuit.

Although it was lensed in the mountains near Vancouver, the film is unclearly about where it’s supposed to be set; the redneck accents suggest somewhere vaguely Southern. Not exactly rocking a scruffy mountain-man beard and a thousand-yard stare, Rockwell stars as John Moon, whose family literally lost the farm some time ago. Hard times have taken their toll on his marriage to pretty but sketchily drawn waitress Jess (Kelly Reilly, the first of many Brits in the cast here showing off hours spent with a dialect coach), whose taken their toddler son to live in town, leaving Moon alone in a dilapidated trailer up in the woods.

While out illicitly hunting deer one day, Moon accidentally shoots and kills a young woman (Christie Burke), apparently a runaway, with the titular single shot. Presumably worried that the circumstances will land him in jail after a string of citations for poaching, Moon chooses to hide the body rather than notify the authorities, especially when he finds a big ole box of cash hidden at the girl’s campsite.

Clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Moon draws attention to himself when he starts spreading his new wealth around town, first with a slimy local lawyer (Macy, hamming it up with a comic toupee and false teeth) whom he retains to handle his divorce, and then later when he tries to drop off a wad of cash for Jess. There he meets skeevy ex-con Obadiah (Joe Anderson), shagging the babysitter (Amy Sloan) while Moon’s son sleeps, and the ominously hirsute Waylon (Jason Isaacs), who will prove to be the major nemesis later on.

At times, the film does a reasonably good job of evoking the claustrophobia of recession-hit rural communities, where everyone knows everyone else’s business and prospects are limited to back-breaking farm work, service-industry labor and crime. But Rosenthal seems more interested in auditioning for future employment on TV procedurals than in exploring sociology, and attempts to establish atmosphere via heavy-handed use of misty landscapes and creepy noises. Indeed, it’s never hard to tell when something bad is about to happen, given the frequency with which Atli Orvarsson’s score cranks up the discordant string section of doom.

Unfortunately, the film is notably lacking in suspense, partly due to a lopsided script that suddenly has to cram in a bunch of explication via a dreadful monologue delivered by Wright, overacting painfully as Moon’s booze-soaked best bud. Elsewhere, there are characters mentioned but never met, and weakly defined relationships that suggest a lot of script tinkering or cutting-room triage happened along the way. The uneven performances from such a potentially strong cast may be the result of what was reportedly a long and troubled pre-production phase (thesps previously attached to the project include Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Forest Whitaker). British actress Ophelia Lovibond at least perks things up as a hapless good girl caught in the crossfire.

Even lenser Eduard Grau, who won plaudits for his eye-catching visuals on “A Single Man,” brings his B-game here with a palette of grays and sludge tones that looked overly dingy at the digital screening reviewed.

Popular on Variety

A Single Shot

U.S.-U.K.-Canada

Production: A Bron Studios, Unified Pictures, Unanimous Entertainment production in association with Media House Capital, Demarest Films, Visionary Pictures of a Coen, Kjarval, Gilbert production. (International sales: Inferno Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Produced by Keith Kjarval, Chris Coen, Aaron Gilbert, Jeff Rice. Executive producers, David M Rosenthal, Sam Rockwell, Matthew F. Jones, Joseph Wright, Ellen Wright, Raju Hariharan, Patrick Murray, John Raymonds, Sean Thomas, William D. Johnson, Sam Englebardt, Michael Lambert. Co-producers, Margot Hand, Katie Goodson-Thomas, Mary Vernieu, Akshaii Hariharan, John Brooks Klingenbeck, Kurt Rauer. Co-executive producers, Ben Ruffman, Steve Goldstein, Bianca Mead-Spadaro, Billy Wirth, Doug Min. Directed by David S. Rosenthal. Screenplay, Matthew F. Jones, based on his novel.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Eduard Grau; editor, Dan Robinson; music, Atli Orvarsson; music supervisor, Dan Wilcox; production designer, David Brisbin; art director, Cheryl Marion; set decorator, Joshua Plaw; costume designer, Beverly Wowchuck; sound (Dolby Digital), Bernard "Six" Costa; sound designer, Roland Heap; re-recording mixers, Kelly Cole, Bill Mellow, Graeme Hughes; visual effects supervisor, Geoffery Antony; visual effects, GFZ Studios; stunt coordinator, Jody Stecyk; line producer, Ian Smith; associate producer, Mike Valva, Donna Valva; assistant director, Matthias Mellinghaus; casting, Mary Vernieu, Venus Kanani. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 8, 2013. Running time: 116 MIN.

With: John Moon - Sam Rockwell
Simon - Jeffrey Wright
Pitt - William H. Macy
Jess - Kelly Reilly
Waylon - Jason Isaacs
Obadiah - Joe Anderson
Abbie - Ophelia Lovibond
Puffy - W. Earl Brown
Cecil - Ted Levine
Carla - Amy Sloan
Colette - Jenica Bergere
Mincy - Heather Lind
Dead Girl Ingrid - Christie Burke(English dialogue)

More Film

  • Box Office Mojo new

    Box Office Mojo Site Transformed by IMDbPro

    BoxOfficeMojo.com has been transformed into an IMDbPro site, losing some of its free features. The Amazon-owned site, which had previously operated free of charge, was given a new look with its header reading “Box Office Mojo by IMDb Pro.” Information such as breakdowns by genre is now only available behind the IMDbPro paywall. The Box [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Hocus Pocus' Sequel in Development at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has launched development of a sequel to 1993’s fantasy comedy “Hocus Pocus” with “Workaholics” writer and co-producer Jen D’Angelo on board to script. The original “Hocus Pocus” starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witch sisters who have been cursed since 1693 in Salem, Ma. The witches [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Wins 2019 Eppy Award for Best Digital Magazine

    Variety has won two Eppy Awards from Editor & Publisher, including Best Digital Magazine and Best Collaborative Investigative/Enterprise Feature for “American (In)Justice” — a collaboration with fellow PMC property Rolling Stone. “American (In)Justice” also tied with USA Today’s “Copy, Paste, Legislate” collaboration with The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. Variety has provided [...]

  • Joker Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

    Box Office: Villains Face Off Again as 'Joker' and 'Maleficent' Battle for First Place

    Despite three new nationwide releases, domestic box office charts look to be dominated by holdovers — Warner Bros.’ “Joker” and Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” — during the last weekend in October. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted last weekend with $36 million in North America, enough to dethrone “Joker” after the super-villain origin story’s back-to-back [...]

  • Yasushi Shiina

    Tokyo Market is Finding New Strengths, Says Yasushi Shiina

    Clouds on the global economic horizon and disruption to the scheduling of the event, have done little to dampen the interest of foreign visitors to TIFFCOM, Japan’s biggest film and TV market. Especially those from China, says market head, Yasushi Shiina. The market is again running at the Sunshine City shopping, entertainment and business complex [...]

  • "Weathering With You" directed by Makoto

    Toho Unveils Dual Media Romance 'Love Me, Love Me Not' at Tokyo Market

    Japan’s biggest film company, which produces, distributes and exhibits its own product in partnership with leading media companies, Toho has brought a line-up to TIFFCOM full of present and future hits. The biggest is “Weathering with You,” the love story animation by Makoto Shinkai that surpassed the $100 million mark only a month after its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content