Steven is an author of very mediocre talent. When he stumbles across a “missing child” poster with a telephone number and the words “HLEPP ME?” written on it, he figures it harmless–and decides to base a story around it, he calls the number. This leads to an encounter with Bryant who claims to have actually kidnapped a girl, stating she will be released only if Steven pays
a mere $2000 ransom within two weeks. Steven initially dismisses Bryant as a morbid prankster—until Bryant begins a relationship with his only friend, Rene and starts popping up in his life.
Written By: Pablo D'Stair
Directed By: Pablo D'Stair
A Public Ransom is a strange beast indeed. Stylized to the point of no return and I can honestly say I haven't seen many films quite like it. It's also something that is not going to be for everyone. In the end though, the true meaning of the term Independent Film is the ability to do something the way you want to do it. This film is a perfect example of that premise. Done the way Pablo D'Stair wanted to do it, with no apologies.
Let's start by saying A Public Ransom isn't all that exciting to watch visually. There is no cool camera tricks or fancy post production. It consists mainly of static shots with the actors moving in and around the comfortable framing style we're all used to. I write 'in and around' because they do, in fact move to the sides, off, up and down... seemingly wherever they want and the camera, being static simply doesn't follow. This takes some getting used to from a viewer perspective but after a short while you probably won't even notice. The technicalities of the film are minimal. A lot of poorly lit areas, grainy and generally not always pretty to look at. There are some shot set ups that are visually cool though, mixed in with everything else. Is this a bad thing? Maybe. Maybe not. That's the thing with A Public Ransom that makes it so hard to rate. This unusual style is what gives the film it's unusual style! So I think I'm going to skip the usual technical analysis and jump right into the other aspects of the film.
Carlyle Edwards takes the helm as the lead character Steven and the entire film hinges on his ability to portray his character. More-so than usual since this film is like one big narrative. Everything is done vocally with little attention to the visual aspects. If Mr. Edwards had sucked, or even simply done a 'decent' job' than A Public Ransom would have fallen flat on it's face. The fact that it doesn't, and that Carlyle is really quite good really pushes this production along nicely. More than a few times I couldn't help compare Mr. Edwards performance to that of Jack Nicholson. The resemblance in vocal style is actually quite remarkable at times. Clearly there is talent here. The few other cast members all did a great job with their respective roles and as I wrote earlier... completely saved the film. Now let me be clear. As I write how the actors "Saved the film" I'm not talking about bad writing. A Public Ransom actually has some really expert writing going on. It just wouldn't have translated well to screen if not for the extra push of the actors, especially in a production this stylized.
Overall this was some good entertainment. My only complaints are actually rather small ones. One being that it would have been nice to hear the other end of the numerous phone conversations in the film. Carlyle Edwards did a bang up job with his part but hearing the voice on the other end of the line would have been great. Like I said. A small thing. My only other real gripe was the run time. It clocks in at over 2 hours! Even the best of films become a test of stamina after the two hour mark. I think if A Public Ransom was trimmed down to an hour twenty or even an hour and a half it would have scored an extra .5 on the rating. Especially when watching on a computer screen... it just felt too long!
A Public Ransom is a cool and stylized piece of art. One that although not ground breaking is easily entertaining. P'ablo D'Stair has some real gifts and I look forward to seeing future offerings. If you have a little time to kill you wouldn't do wrong to sit back and enjoy a truly Indie production. The best part? It's free!
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