Down and Dangerous is a film that’s very indicative of what to expect from the bulk of future digital, independent films. That is; crowd-funded, artless but slickly photographed and narrativly derivative.
Down and Dangerous, written and directed by Zak Forsman, is a neo-noir crime thriller about a Los Angeles drug runner caught in an intricate web of drug lords, crooked cops, and intrigue. Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. The intrigue is mostly pokes and nods to better films. Down and Dangerous homages all the regulars — Sergio Leone, Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino — without really adding it’s own spin into the mix. See, when Tarantino homages films, it’s to serve the purpose of re-arranging familiar or striking elements to form an entirely new, elevated whole. Down and Dangerous feels like a mediocre regurgitation, a loving regurgitation, I suppose — but a regurgitation nonetheless.
The “intricacy” of the plot is mostly confused, misaligned episodes that — must in some way I assume — build towards something. What that something is I don’t know as it is impossible to decipher. The script collapses under its own ambition. Plot points seemingly occur without motivation or consequence, unless of course it’s convenient for the writer.
The digital photography is flashy and for the most part, crisp. There were times when the quality became noticeably grainy, and the picture actually lagged at three point during the film. I was particularly impressed with how well the film looked considering about 60 percent of it is night scenes. Night scenes can be hell to film on digital and therefore director/writer/cinematographer Zak Forsman should be commended on that front.
The acting was well done given the script the actors had to work with. Lead John Wood tries his best to imbue his character with humanity and individuality — which is perhaps only hinted at in the screenplay — and the audience appreciates the effort. Ross Marguand plays a surprisingly sinister — if underdeveloped — villain.
The only weak point in the cast was female lead Paulie Rojas. Rojas lacks an essential toughness and bravado which is required by her character. Take for example a scene in which Rojas’ character, Olivia, shows off her street cred and drug expertise by reciting the process of cocaine harvesting and manufacturing while calculating the cost. She rattles off the lines without subtly or conviction. It sounds as if, well, as if she’s simply reading the lines off a piece of paper.
Anther strong point is the pulsing, neo-Miami Vice score by Deklun. The electronic soundtrack sets the tone for much of Down and Dangerous and picks up the film when the story begins to wain.
Overall, Down and Dangerous is a loose hobbling-together of familiar action and crime film tropes. Under all it’s influences and homages, the film fails to find a unique or even memorable voice of its own. Zak Forsman is a promising visualist, but should probably leave the scripting duties to someone else the next time around. At a budget of $38 thousand, Down and Dangerous is quite an accomplishment, however, I can’t shake the feeling that the full potential of the production was squandered.