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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Is There Life After Dreams? Matthew P. Rojas Examines In "The Amputation"

"THE AMPUTATION" (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 8:46
Company:  Silent Stone Films

Jack "The Dodger" Duddy (Nathan Marlow) was an up and coming boxer with the championship in his sights, and nobody could stop him from reaching his goal.  He was a man possessed, in other words -- a powerhouse.  Boxing wasn't just a sport to him.  It was life.  More than life, even.

But just before he can see those dreams realized, something happens -- something that forces him to re-evaluate not only what his physical body means, but what he means, and who he is as a man.

Is anything left after dreams?

THE DARK SIDE

Writer/director Matthew P. Rojas wowed me last year with his short thriller "In This Myth of Vengeance" (which also featured Marlow).  He's a young filmmaker, to be sure, but he's wrapping thrills and thought together with a certain understated spiritual undertone that I haven't seen before in short film -- and that's exciting.

So when I heard he had a new project under way, I was excited to see what he'd come up with, to say the least.  Well, I was not expecting this -- "The Amputation" is part one of a longer work aptly titled "Steams in the Wasteland", a stream of consciousness style meditation on man, happiness, and the swampy land where most of us get stuck in the pursuit of our dreams.   But to say I wasn't expecting it is a positive thing.  Once again, Rojas has surprised me, and done so with reckless abandon, and I love him for it.

A TEAM EFFORT

This film also has another interesting point for it: there are a pair of guest directors on hand: Rob Martinez worked on the news segment of the film, and part two of "Streams in the Wasteland" will be handled in part by Jonathan Mendoza, so it's a collaborative effort.  Even so, the segments flow extremely well and I would not have guessed there were multiple hands in the pie had the credits not told me so.

"The Amputation" is made up of dark, moody vignettes peppered with documentary style interview footage of Jack.  Rojas' directorial style is evident here, with a really awesome over-the-shoulder angle of Jack talking to the camera, but almost doing so off camera.

AS WRITTEN

The dialogue is realistic and well written, and Marlow's delivery is on the ball every single time.  His acting is nothing short of brilliant, and heartbreaking at just the right moments.  The script conveys a sense of weightlessness: one moment, we're seeing footage on a lonely television set in a black abyss.  In the next, we're watching Jack in his prime.  In the next, he's wheeling himself through memory after memory of days gone by, or are they actually the present after all?

A few complaints: first of all, nothing's resolved and no final conclusion is made.  Perhaps more will be made apparent of Jack's story in part two?  Considering how intriguing the rest of the film is, I felt like all these pieces of Jack's psyche were going to be brought together somehow into one cohesive, "Eureka!" moment, but that didn't happen.  Also, Afomia Hailemeskel's performance is scattershot.  Sometimes, she hits just the right notes for being a reporter, and at other times she feels forced.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  The script is dark and interesting, but doesn't feel complete as it is.  I review short films on their own merits, so maybe this is me missing the point of a larger picture, but I had to knock it down a point for not concluding in a satisfying way.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Many of the shots of the film were memorable, but I much enjoyed the TV  shots and the interview footage.  
Editing: 4 / 5.  Rojas also edited the film, and the cutting style is sharp and off putting -- intentionally so.  It works extremely well to create great tension throughout.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  An emotional soundtrack and solid sound design, but I'd expect nothing less considering Rojas' previous effort, "In This Myth of Vengeance".  We've got music from Luke Atencio, Sugar + The Hi-Lows, and classical from Antonin Dvorak -- all properly licensed.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Marlow puts on a great show as Jack "The Dodger" Duddy.  Hailemeskel is a mixed bag when it comes to playing the news reporter.

Final Grade: 3.7 / 5.

Don't forget to check out Matthew P. Rojas on Facebook and visit his official website right here to keep up to date on when "The Amputation" will be coming to a screen near you!



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!