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Monday, February 15, 2016

Ambitious Western "Targeted" Fires, But Does It Find Its Mark?

"TARGETED" (2015)
Genre: Western
Length- 39:18
Company:  N/A

Overly confident  Illinois Pinkerton agent Jimmy Makton (Zach Dufrene) takes a case in California to track down Billy the Butcher (Erik Jacob Haley) on a contract with the US Army, working with Samuel (Jak Locke), the sheriff's brother.

There's barroom brawls and gunfights and everything you'd expect from a Western, all in a very low budget package.

So how's this self-dubbed "Experiment in Ultra-Low Budget Filmmaking" fare?

A FISH OUT OF WATER

"Targeted" is a short film shot by a five person team and helmed by writer/director/producer/effects man/actor Jak Locke.  It aspires to be nothing less than a full blown Western on par with any Hollywood release (of which there have been next to none for the past decade).  You have to admire the ingenuity of the filmmakers to put something like this on film.  

There are some missteps along the way.  The script is all over the place -- we spend too much time with the initial gunfight, and while the "re-imagining" of what really happened is played for laughs, it comes across as silly rather than funny.  The dialogue feels like a long train of random old time slang and alpha male posturing.  We never get to know any of the characters beyond their stereotypes.

Literally everyone has a gun and shows it at one time or another.  In a world where violence is this casual, the killing loses any punch it might have had.  Maybe this is an intentional desensitization of the audience, but it doesn't come to any kind of thematic fruition.

The conclusion does throw in an interesting wrench to the storyline, but it's not built up through the rest of the movie so, again, it doesn't feel like it has any purpose.

BLOOD & GLORY

But it's not all bad.  The fight choreography is inspired, particularly for something so obviously low budget.  There's fight scenes aplenty, gun play, bullet holes and a particularly nasty (if a bit out of place) bit with a knife rummaging around in a wound to remove a bullet.

The costumes look fantastic, and the travel montage is pitch perfect.  We get a great sense of the distance traveled, even if the world doesn't look any different in California than it did in Illinois.

But ultimately, the thing that sinks "Targeted" is its length.  At just under forty minutes, it is about twenty five minutes too long.  We have extended scenes of dialogue that could be cut to a few sentences and still get the same effect.  The cast is enormous -- there's probably twenty to thirty characters who appear on camera, none of whom we ever get to know beyond either getting shot or shooting somebody.

There's a fun story to be had in this Western, and it's admirable to see a short film take on this particular genre, but its story needs to be reeled way in before we'll be able to see it.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 1.5 / 5.  The script isn't complicated, but it takes so many detours for scenes that ultimately do nothing to advance the plot.  Short films need to be concise and say exactly what they want to say in as little time as possible -- your average viewer is not going to have the attention span that I do, and more than likely will not make it to the end credits.
Directing: 3 / 5.  Locke's directing makes for an entertaining show.  We have a variety of shots that are interwoven in an effective way, and the visuals are surprisingly strong.
Editing: 2 / 5.  The transitions work well, but the color correction doesn't attain that true "cinematic" feel.  The pacing is thrown off over and over by scenes that stretch on far longer than they need.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  The score is also written and performed by Locke, and it provides some much needed production value to the film.  I enjoyed it.  Plus, the dialogue and sound effects are recorded effectively.
Acting: 2 / 5.  Dufrene and Locke do the best they can with the lines they're trying to chew, but none of it sounds believable through their accents.  The remainder of the cast ranges from amateur night to just bad.

Final Grade: 2.3 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Targeted" and its eventual release by following the film 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!