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    10 Cent Pistol (2015): Movie Review

    “An intricate but overly twisted crime tale of baffling crosses.” 

    After writing 2009’s hit Brooklyn’s Finest, Michael C. Martin comes back with his first directorial feature called 10 Cent Pistol which he himself wrote. In this heavily convoluted film which moves backward and forward in time, double-, triple- and even quadruple-crosses will decide the fate of two long-time crime partners.

    In the film’s introduction, two policemen visit a Hollywood Hills mansion after being alerted by a silent alarm. Young and nervous Harris (Thomas Ian Nicholas) reluctantly receives them. While waiting for someone who is stuck in the elevator, everyone gathers in the living room as the interrogation begins.

    One year earlier, stocky and hot-tempered Easton (Damon Alexander) lies confidently groaning on Egyptian cotton sheets while four bullets are being dug out of his back. It came as a result of a “Russian” job of eliminating a client of his affluent, sharp and callous crime boss Punchy (Joe Magtegna) whose home and son are now under threat. Punchy’s promises of no-jail time and a generous reward for the job dissolve into thin air and instead, Easton serves a long prison stint. After thirteen months, Easton sees the outside world again only to discover that Punchy stole some of his government bonds.

    To exact his revenge, Easton recruits brainy partner, Jake (JT Alexander), and his aspiring actress girlfriend, Danneel (Jena Malone) in his campaign. Unknown to him, Jake and Danneel are making out as he served prison time. Their relationship is further complicated with the fact that they all share the same apartment. After much planning, the trio visits Punchy’s son, Harris, in the mansion. As each harbours secret agenda, the gathering soon becomes a violent and tense outburst of emotions, bullets and blood.

    With its well-diverse cast, playful shift of point of view and bloody ending, 10 Cent Pistol is derivative of Quentin Tarantino films. Though it may be as suspenseful and intriguing, it is not able to achieve the same clarity and cohesiveness. The movie is told in countless overlapping flashbacks with too many twists. Such refusal to give straightforward details may build up the tension but it also deadens it due to perplexity. In the grand climactic shootout in the mansion where some figures are wearing mask, it is quite hard to grasp who shoots, who gets shot and why they are suddenly shooting each other. Too complicated and ambiguous, the narrative is further marred by how the story moves back and forth. Even at the final revelation, the film does not stop travelling in time as it refuses to give a single account of events.

    In its effort to deliver mind-boggling mysteries and scrambled chronology, the film fails to give layers to its characters. It’s hard to root for personas we know nothing much about. In effect, there are not much convincing motivations for their betrayals and crosses. However, there are some big intense moments in the film. Jake’s nerve-wracking Cadillac car heist is one of them.

    The movie also has plenty of clever and hardboiled dialogues. “They’ve got cameras watching the cameras,” “If you wanna work for a fair business, work for the fucking country fair,” and “She looks good and fucks like she’s ugly” are some of these. Yet, Jake’s “finesse” lines are lame and tacky.

    Acting is quite passable. Main lead actors JT Alexander and Damon Alexander are unknown stars and they did nothing much than acting rough and ballsy. The most appealing character is Danneel who Malone seems to overplay with. In general, figures are just too shallow that actors don’t have much to play around with. 

    10 Cent Pistol has an intricate plot which cannot be easily followed by anyone. Some may watch the film to have more comprehensive understanding of the events while others may deem it too baffling for another view. It’s a risk worthy if it has personality and presence like Tarantino’s. Sadly, it has not.


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