By Vic Holtreman
Short version: An interesting idea poorly executed.
In order to make it to the showing of Weapons at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival I had to leave the post-movie Q&A for Black Snake Moan early. The only reason I'm not totally annoyed with myself for doing that is that the short film preceding the main feature, A Nick in Time by Be' Garrett was outstanding.
When I read the description for director/screenwriter Adam Bhala Lough's Weapons, I had a feeling it might not be up my alley but I figured I'd give it a shot anyway. In the end I should have passed on it, and many people I spoke to after the showing had the same, if not stronger opinions to the negative as well. It's never a good sign when people start leaving in droves before the Director Q&A session...
Weapons is yet another movie that starts with the ending. Coincidentally, The Good Life which starred Mark Webber, who is also in this film also started the same way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Once the movie was through it became obvious why it was done that way, but that doesn't exactly mean that it worked well. The opening scene with it's lingering, slow camera shot is indicative of more of the same to come. It starts quite literally with a bang that is not for the feint hearted.
The film then goes to Sean (played by the up and coming Mark Webber) and his friends Jason and Chris. Chris tries to film everything ("I'm making a movie.") and is what I would call a dangerous geek. Dorky, can't get a girl, and drives around with a shotgun in back of his car in case he "wants to shoot someone". Jason is cocky and a tough guy, while Sean is just back from college, although he's easily sucked back into his friends' dead end lifestyle.
The main story involves Reggie (played by Nick Cannon) becoming obsessed with tracking down and killing the man who raped and beat on his younger sister Sabrina (played by Regine Nehy). Due to the start of the film, we already know what will happen to him and for me, that ruined the movie quite a bit. Reggie, who does not seem to be a gangster-type, surprises us with his attitude and commitment in finding a gun and setting out with his friends to kill the rapist ASAP. He goes to his friends Mikey and younger James (who is supposed to be Sabrina's boyfriend) to demand their help.
Sabrina says that Jason is the one who did it to her and that is Reggie's target. He and his friends go find Mikey's uncle who has apparently smoked one too many joints and is very strange. Despite this he tries to talk them out of what they're going to do and they respond by beating the heck out of him.
About the best thing in the movie actually happens here, when the uncle has Reggie pinned against the wall and asks him about the genocide in Rwanda, to which Reggie replies "Who's Rwanda?"
Weapons was the first film I saw at Sundance that had an "indie" feel to it - grainy film, hand held camera, and wierd things that I guess were supposed to be "artistic" but fell flat. For one thing Lough did the old "watch events from different points of view" thing, but all that did was make me feel like I had to sit through a bad film three times instead of just one. Then he had this habit of holding a shot on a face or scene where nothing was happening WAY too long. It almost felt as if in a few scenes he just forgot to say "cut!" Finally, in the middle of the film he inserted this weird, freeze frame montage of the main and supporting characters.
I really did want to give this a chance and for about the first 15 or 20 minutes although I didn't think it was great, I thought it was ok and moving in an interesting direction. Unfortunately it really fell apart as it got further along. The style of the film actually reminded me of the controversial movie Kids by director Larry Clarke, which although it was more about teen sex than violence and was considered exploitative, really got the point of the nothing to lose, dead end lives of it's characters than this film managed to do.