Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ben Dawkins' "Dealer" a Flawed Slice of Gritty, Gritty Drug Life

"DEALER" (2014)
Genre: Crime Drama
Length- 11:48
Company: The Sweetshop
Website: Official

Curtis (Osi Okerafor) is a drug dealer.  He has a family too -- beautiful wife Jennifer (Jacqueline Alcarva) and toddler daughter Holly (Princess Dadson).  But Curtis is drawn to the streets despite its inherent dangers.

"Just come home," Jennifer begs him.

But how does a man raised on the street walk away from it? 

When is it too late?


"Dealer" is written and directed by Ben Dawkins courtesy of The Sweet Shop.  The production values are gorgeous -- we have what I suspect to be a helicopter shot at the end, beautiful footage of a storm breaking out and lightning arcing through clouds, and really stunning late night grungy city shots aplenty.

So why do I walk away feeling empty?

The film feels incredibly padded, for one -- far too much of the film is spent looking at Curtis as he drives around town with and without clients.  The music is played at maximum volume -- "Rival Dealer" by Burial, the song that inspired the film in the first place -- and it becomes irritating after the first few minutes as you try to pick out what individual people are saying.  With so many characters, most of whom remain nameless and pointless, it's easy to become confused.

Rather than "Dealer" being the "slice of life" style film that I believe it was trying to be, it just comes off as a series of random events, particularly the fight scene that breaks out briefly toward the end of the film. 

But if that wasn't bad enough, the last few seconds of the film were enough to make me yell at the screen.

So all in all, the trouble with "Dealer" is that nothing comes together, nothing makes sense -- yes, these sorts of things happen to drug dealers in real life, but the events on display have zero resonance because there's nothing going on in the writing.


Writing: 1 / 5.  One sequence did not lead into the next -- it all came off as random, and the conclusion felt tacked on as an excuse to stop shooting.
Directing: 3 / 5.  There were some genuinely nice moments in the film -- in particular that storm sequence was awe inspiring.  Dawkins also tried to make the shots of Curtis driving look interesting, but there's only so many angles to shoot the interior of a car.
Editing: 2 / 5.  Curtis' driving felt like it dragged on forever, with literally eight or nine cuts with different angles thrown in there.  Considering the fact that the film is only eleven minutes in length and STILL feels long, it really could've used some more trimming.  Without more story to give the images meaning, editor Paul Hardcastle was in between a rock and a hard place on this one.
Sound/Music:  2 / 5.  I didn't like the song -- it was painfully repetitive and, since it was so loud in the mix, it drowned out the action.  Maybe this was intentional, but in any case the entire sound design suffered because of it.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Alcarva does a good job with the three or four lines she's given, and Dadson is a toddler, so she stood around and looked adorable.  Okerafor did as best as he could with the role he was given -- he basically alternately looks stoic or about to explode.   He does both expressions well.

Final Grade:  2.2 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Dealer" and follow the creators 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!