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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Robot Saviors and Post-Apocalyptic Faith in Bloody Cuts' 48 Hour Contest Short Film "Machine Stopped Working"

"MACHINE STOPPED WORKING" (2014)
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi
Length- 5:05
Company: Bloody Cuts
Website: Official

Two gunmen (Tom Sawyer and stunt coordinator pro Dominic Kinnaird) race across a near-future industrial site to secure the alien life form that can activate a robot they believe can save mankind. 

This gutsy sci-fi story from England was created for the 2014 Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Competition under team name "Bubblegum and Batwings", which means that literally it was written, filmed, edited and scored in 48 hours.  Anyone who's ever tried to do anything in two days knows that is just not a whole lot of time.

How well does "Machine Stopped Working" turn out?

Let's find out, shall we?

BLOOD AND GUNS

The film looks and sounds great thanks to anamorphic widescreen, top notch direction, editing and sound design -- all performed by Anthony Melton and Ben Franklin.  The action scenes are surprisingly well constructed considering how fast the production was, and the score by Patrick Jonsson sounds esoteric and eerie

The action is effective, with lots of gunplay and even some tightly choreographed hand-to-hand, but I never felt like the two gunmen were in real danger, and some of the gun fights feel a bit Rambo-ish to me (i.e. heroes hit their targets with deadeye aim while the enemy couldn't hit the broadside of a barn two feet away). 

The violence looked good, and the blood splatter was well done, but the whole affair lacked a certain punch.

One thing that was eye opening was the ten foot tall robot toward the end of the film.  I was disappointed there wasn't more to that -- it's there, about to kick butt and take names, and then Watts is out the door and we never see it again.

Also, it seemed a little hypocritical for Seeva and the rest to resist one robot while employing the help of another.  Maybe there was some kind of "spark of life" to Watts' robot that the other one didn't have?

Speaking of that, what happened to Cale?  We don't get closure on anyone but Watts and Seeva (Kate Braithwaite).

SAVIOR COMPLEX

Where the film shines is in its sci-fi trappings.  We have a nice looking post-apocalyptic industrial zone, and survivors in beaten up clothes pockmarked with holes.  Their faces are dirty.

There are two groups of people in this film: the protagonists Watts and Cale (Sawyer and Kinnaird) who want to revive a robot in the belief that it will heal mankind, and Seeva and Kurtz (Paul Jibson), the antagonists who are attempting to destroy a biological entity that looks like a big fish -- the only thing that can bring said robot back to life. 

Through it all, Watts retains a certain religious zeal about the whole thing, pestering the more fatalistic Cale about having faith in what they are doing. 

"I'll never have faith," Cale says in one of the film's best lines, "but I've got the next best thing."
 
Then he leaps into action, firing his weapons and taking human (and alien) lives to restore "life" to a robot.

It's little touches like this that help lend the film a personality of its own, and while it's hardly a searing indictment of zealotry, it goes a long way to adding a little depth to what is predominantly people shooting each other for five minutes.
 
OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  The story is basically an excuse to get people to shoot each other, but there's just enough depth to keep me interested.  I enjoyed how writer Joel Morgan played with the idea of faith -- an unlikely theme for an action shoot 'em up --  and presented both sides of the argument with something to say.  In fact, there's no communication the entire film, just both sides stating what they believe.  Neither side listens to the other, and the killing begins.
Directing: 3 / 5.  The action scenes lacked energy in spite of top notch choreography.  Melton and Franklin did what they could to make the location sing for the camera, with mixed results.  I did enjoy the shots with the giant robot -- the direction helped it feel like a big, powerful moment.
Editing: 4 / 5.  Every shot fits with the previous and leads seamlessly into the next.  The pace never dragged.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Jonsson's score is perfect for the film.  I would like to own this one if possible!  The sound design was also well done, including a fairly creepy introductory prayer that's jumbled and echoed to represent Watts' fanatical devotion to his robot master.
Acting: 2.5 / 5.  There were bright points, with Sawyer and Kinnaird in particular delivering solid performances, but Kate Braithwaite sounds stilted during the indoor confrontation.

Final Grade: 3.3 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Machine Stopped Working" on Vimeo and the official website of creators Bloody Cuts as well as co-director Anthony Melton's official website

For more updates on "Machine Stopped Working" and their next project, follow Bloody Cuts on Facebook!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!