Max "Maxie" has a problem. He's tied to a chair and about to be interrogated and executed by a man who considered him a friend, and it's not just him on the hot seat; Max's family is in grave danger as well. Max is tied into the mob, and they've recently found out he's an FBI agent undercover. Now, it's time for Michael "Fists" to get some answers before finally ending Max's rat life. Typically, this would be just another stroll through the park for Michael but this one's tough - he really did consider Max to be his friend. There's no way this is a mix-up, and Michael puts on his game face and goes to work.
This is the setup for Matthew Ewald's hour-long feature "The Coffin Bound Kings," and although it seems pretty straightforward, there's another element I haven't mentioned yet. The pesky Devils. Who seem to have taken the law into their own hands, never leaving a trace of their existence save blood and death. Halfway (or so) through this film's second act, the story quickly changes direction and goes a completely different way - the clues were there all along through various cuts and inserts. Still, it's not until this point that the real story of the film is finally unleashed. This was a pretty ambitious story to tackle for an independent, low-budget film, but overall, the results speak for themselves.
... and yet... I really was on the fence with this film. I knew it was above average but had trouble deciding just how much. There are a lot of technical issues, issues that low-budget or not could have been addressed. For starters, the audio was really, really inconsistent. I spent almost as much time with my fingers on the volume control as I did watching the film. Then there's the use of stock footage throughout the movie. Not because it was used wrong or anything like that - rather because it stood out like a sore thumb. Generally speaking, stock footage is a great way to add production value - but make sure you try and match the quality even if you have to downgrade the stock. It can be very distracting when suddenly and consistently, your mind tries to consolidate a crystal clear grouping of images within a much lower quality edit.
With all that said, there's a lot more to this film than some audio issues and stock footage conundrums - I also had to consider that for vast lengths of the film, I was totally immersed in the world Ewald, and his cast/crew had created. It's easy to point a finger and say an edit is a little awkward or that the sound is wonky sometimes - but not so easy to explain why I wanted to keep watching, to know why I cared about what was happening. Well, reader, maybe it is easy to explain after all. I wanted to keep watching because the story being told was an interesting one. That, and that the performances were pretty damn solid - especially the performance from Matthew Ewald himself. I couldn't help but get a Joaquin Phoenix vibe from Ewald as he glided through his dialog. The truth is that the good far outweighs any technical, budgetary issues this film had - by far.
Perfection is elusive, and I have yet to see any movie that even comes close. Even the "great ones" are far from perfect, and "The Coffin Bound Kings" is no different. If you go into this movie expecting a flick with a Disney budget, you'll be let down - sorry. But if you go into this film with no expectations and give it a chance, you may find yourself lost in this twisty-turny narrative Matthew Ewald has created. With tie-ins to PTSD and even a small amount of comedy, "The Coffin Bound Kings" was a nicely rounded film. To everyone involved in the creation of this flick, well done. Three and a half stars.