Director: Jeremy Kagan
Cast: Noah Wyle, Sharon Leal, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Xander Berkeley, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Rafael Cebrián, Cher Ferreyra, Jesse Socorro Montes, Alondra Lara
Running Time: 1:29
Release Date: 9/22/17 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | September 21, 2017
Director Jeremy Kagan's Shot is caught between two worlds: telling a straightforward story with a clever amount of craft, in which we get the message from the content of the story itself, and fashioning a message movie, whether or not it makes sense for the characters and the established narrative. The story is essentially divided in two, with the first part detailing the immediate effects of a gunshot in real time and the second part attempting to examine the psychological effects after the fact.
The first part works much better. In it, Mark Newman (Noah Wyle), a freelance sound mixer working in Los Angeles (The introduction to the character focuses on a scene of violence in a movie, although, if Kagan is trying to make a connection between fictional and real-life violence, it's inconsequential), and his wife Phoebe (Sharon Leal) are separated. He meets her at coffee shop to sign the divorce papers. Meanwhile, Miguel (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is being bullied. His cousin (played by Rafael Cebrián) suggests that Miguel keep a gun on him. That will keep the bullies away.
The two stories meet as Miguel inspects the gun in a junkyard near the café. While Mark and Phoebe discuss the divorce outside the place, the gun accidentally discharges. The bullet strikes Mark in the chest, left of and above his heart. As he waits for paramedics, Miguel runs away, unsure of what to do with gun and if he can hide from the police.
The movie proceeds by juxtaposing what happens to two characters, often in split-screen. There's not much to Miguel's side, as he races around town, hiding the gun in a garbage bin, only to be scolded by his cousin. After retrieving it, he tries to return the gun to the cousin, but it stays with him. He visits a local priest (played by Jesse Socorro Montes) for advice, which is what one would expect, and returns home, where his mother (played by Cher Ferreyra) gives him a condensed version of "the talk." Her son shouldn't go to police, because, even if the shooting was an accident, the cops won't be able to look past the color of his skin.
Miguel's story plays out against attempts to save Mark's life, and those scenes, which, again, play in seemingly real time, are harrowing enough on their own. There's the lengthy time of him lying on the sidewalk, waiting for an ambulance as his consciousness begins to fade. There's the bumpy ride to the hospital, during which the paramedics stabilize him. There's the rush into the emergency room, and there are the endless tests and a painful procedure to get the blood out of his chest.
Kagan spares few of the details of the physical consequences of a gunshot wound. The medical procedures are graphic (if presented in such a way that one can tell the filmmakers were working with a limited budget, considering the prosthetic work during the procedure to release the pressure on the lung). The increasing awareness that the bullet, which exited through his lower back, may have done more damage than from initial appearances is related in a fairly straightforward way through the long process of physical examinations, an X-ray, and a CAT scan. The doctors, led by Dr. Roberts (Xander Berkeley), who keeps getting Mark's name wrong, have that required bedside manner, which means the screenplay by Will Lamborn and Anneke Campbell occasionally trips over itself to fit some humor into a fairly humorless situation.
There's little need for a stated message here. The process of watching Mark go through all of this suffering is more than enough. There are a few lines during the emergency room scenes that try to say something (A cop argues that illegal guns need to be taken off the streets, and Roberts makes some more-than-slightly prejudicial remarks about a certain ethnic group as the cause of most violence, which are immediately countered without considering the character's prejudice), but for the most part, the filmmakers let Mark's ordeal speak for itself.
That's why the second part of the movie falters so dramatically. It is trying to say something outright, and the approach is both rushed and clumsy. Five months after being shot, Mark has to deal with a new way of living. He has pushed away Phoebe, cannot go out in public without suffering a panic attack, and has purchased a gun of his own. Miguel, still wracked with guilt over the shooting, has stopped going to school and has begun following Phoebe, hoping to find the victim of his actions.
This is obviously moving toward a confrontation, and in the process, the screenplay hastens past the later consequences of trauma, which is strange, considering how intimately the movie handles the immediate results. The confrontation itself is anticlimactic, both because it arrives at a solution that seems far too convenient for the movie's ultimate message and because it uses a gimmicky sort of rewind-try-again device, which harkens all the way back to the opening scene but feels completely alien within the context of the climax. Shot proves that it doesn't need to go to such lengths to get its point across (The move even ends with statistics, just to make sure we get it), but to the detriment of that message, the movie does anyway.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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