The Jogger is a new movie by Oklahoma-based film director, Jeff Robison. Screening at the 2013 deadCENTER Film Festival, it proved so popular in its first screening that the festival rewarded it with a second screening on the final night at the event. The question is whether or not the actual finished product is worth the second screening.
The Jogger is definitely an impressively made movie. This is a locally shot film that had a much larger budget than many Oklahoma entries in the festival, and it showed. It was also a beautifully shot movie, impressive since half of The Jogger took place outdoors in the evening. Everything about this movie was slick and looked fantastic. Whether or not you think it is worth your time all depends on how dark you like your films.
The Jogger is easily the darkest movie I saw the entire festival.
Paul (Derek Phillips, Friday Night Lights TV show) is a husband and father of two daughters. He is a hard-working man whose best friend is a lying, manipulative, and arrogant individual named Malcolm (Jason Wiles, Persons Unknown). He is also having marital problems, mainly because his wife Carol (Cameron Richardson, Alvin and the Chipmunks) is losing sexual interest in their relationship.
That is the setup, but the movie is a fractured narrative. We flip back and forth from the present to the past through the entire movie. In the present, Paul is jogging when a car slows by him and then circles back around and stops in front of him. Next thing we see is that Paul is running for his life from a mysterious man with a knife who says he will kill him and his family. Paul realizes he will have to race through the woods to get home to save his family from this madman.
The rest of the movie sees Paul interacting with his wife, his friends and his job, almost as a series of important vignettes leading us to understand why this person wants Paul and his family dead. To say much more is a spoiler, so I will leave it at that.
While the movie is brilliantly shot, has an impressive cast, and is structured impressively, the movie is a bleak and nihilistic film that is hard to really enjoy. There isn’t one single character in the movie you can get behind, and just when one of them wins you over, they do something to turn you against them again. There are not a lot of movies this daring, a film that makes you hate or pity every character, but this movie does that. What is impressive is that it keeps you interested and following it to the end.
I think the fractured narrative does the movie a favor. Set up as a traditional narrative, I don’t think this is a story that would work. You would end up hating every character in the movie by the time the chase starts. With the chase always interrupting the plot, the movie keeps you sucked in until the jaw dropping finale. I can’t say I was happy with the end, but that takes nothing away from the movie itself.
If you are interested in a daring, very dark, psychological thriller, The Jogger is an indie worth seeking out.