Who Shot Morgan? A Proper Violence Tries to Talk it Out

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A Proper Violence
Directed by Chris Faulisi
Opens August 26
Quad Cinema

Unless a filmmaker of Claude Chabrol's wicked-sharp intellect is in charge, psychological thrillers can usually stand to spare the psychology. Scrappy college-age filmmakers Chris Faulisi (director/DP) and Matt Robinson (writer/producer) do a commendable job of establishing tone and tension in their debut feature, but things fall apart when words and feelings start to flow. Moody, shifty-eyed brooder Morgan (Randy Spence) returns to town after a prolonged absence, moving into a seedy hotel room and trying in vain to make friends with wary acquaintances. Before we can make sense of his gloom or their revulsion, a late-night prowler buries a bullet in Morgan's gut. So long as it has secrets to hide, the film functions effectively as a naturalistic neo-noir, utilizing micro-indie limitations as minimalist assets. Yet once we meet the extended family behind the hit on Morgan, and learn of our anti-hero's revenge-worthy crime, vast gaps in plausibility and authorial maturity emerge. A central act set in a remote campground allows for some genuine, and surprisingly relatable, frights, but it's also where Faulisi and Robinson devolve into talky amateurism, literalizing their moral preoccupations (of guilt, violence, retribution) with extended, tension-dissembling dialogues. Voices are raised, guns are cocked, and actors slice ham by the pound, which gradually betrays the promise—and the infinitely more compelling conceit—of mysterious bodies at odds with the world and themselves.

 
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