Back in 1998, director Sam Raimi proved he could still deliver a nail biter without his signature graphic content in A Simple Plan. Author Scott B. Smith adapted his own best-seller about a group of backwoods folks’ lives turned upside down after finding some lost cash into a classic thriller. Now, author Matthew F. Jones has adapted his own novel, A Single Shot, into another Simple Plan-esque thriller about another lonely woodsman up to his neck in a dangerous situation — with less satisfactory results — on Blu-ray January 14.
John Moon (Sam Rockwell) lives alone in a trailer after his wife Moira (Kelly Reilly) leaves him and takes their son. One morning while John is out hunting deer, he accidentally shoots and kills a young woman, leaving John to find a container with $100,000. John hides the body and takes the money to try to win back his estranged wife. Meanwhile, John begins to receive threatening phone calls and his dog is shot. Soon enough, the dead girl shows up again with a note attached, and now John must find out who he’s stolen the money from with red herrings — including local lawyer Pitt (William H. Macy), the tattooed Obadiah (Joe Anderson), and new-face-in-town Waylon (Jason Isaacs) — piling up around him.
If there’s one thing about reviewing Blu-ray discs for Well Go USA, it’s their exception presentations. A Single Shot shoots onto Blu-ray on a 25GB disc, framed in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Cinematographer Eduard Grau makes the most of filming in the woods. It’s interesting to see just how much director Rosenthal has degraded the picture in post-production, because in one of the special features we see on-location shooting where it’s mostly bright and sunny whereas the film takes on a very cold and muted look. Detail is always on spot on but the color desaturation sucks the life out of contrast of skin tones à la Winter’s Bone. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio keeps the ambience alive with the use of surrounds throughout, making you feel like you’re out in the woods alongside John in his misadventures. An optional 2.0 Dolby Digital track is also available, along with English subtitles.
Special features are scant, even while being lengthy. Unfortunately, they’re very repetitive. “The Making of A Single Shot” runs 26 minutes and features on-set footage, along with interviews with the cast and crew. Director Rosenthal, screenwriter Jones, and the cast all talk up the film as expected. “Interviews” is full-length versions of the interviews with Rockwell and Macy. A trailer for the film is included and pre-menu previews include: Child of God, McCanick, and The Truth About Emanuel.
Director David M. Rosenthal does his best at keeping things cold and menacing, but fails to inject the ending with appropriate irony to make you care how things turn out. Sam Rockwell is as good as he always is, maintaining his crown for most underrated actor. While he continues to star in low-budget affairs, his Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 was one of the year’s most memorable characters.
As for the supporting cast, Anderson turns in a decent enough performance with his limited screentime, while Isaacs is completely wasted and unrecognizable. Jeffrey Wright is awful, mumbling his way through every line of dialogue; you can never tell what he’s saying. Considering how unnecessary he is to the plot, he could have been cut altogether to give the film a better pace as the 116 minute runtime is way too long. In the end, watching Rockwell perform may be reason enough to check out A Single Shot, however, the film could have used a shot in the arm of adrenaline. A rental is your best bet.