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Sympathy - Vicious Circle Films Print E-mail
User Rating: / 4
Written by Ray Casta   
Thursday, 29 July 2010
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Directed by: Andrew Moorman
Written by: Arik Martin
Produced by: Andrew Moorman, Arik Martin
Edited by: Andrew Moorman
Music by: Ryan Michael Demaree, Dave Hodge, Todor Kobakov
Cast: Marina Shtelen, Aaron Boucher, Steven Pritchard
Year: 2007
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 104 Minutes

Distributor: Breaking Glass Pictures
Studio: Vicious Circle Films

This is a terrific example of a movie practically stripped down to the bare essentials.  It's about as minimalist as possible, confining its characters to one location for its 104-minute running time.  Like Richard Linklater's Tape, the three characters of Andrew Moorman's Sympathy occupy a motel room.  Dialogue tells the story of disgruntled bank robber, Trip (Steven Pritchard) and his teenage hostage Sara (Marina Shtelen) whom he takes to the motel room to figure out his options.  He accidentally shoots Sara in her shoulder, and is forced to leave her handcuffed to the bed so he can get food and supplies to treat Sara's wound.  Trip's situation becomes more complicated and volatile when he returns only to find an escaped convict, Dennis (Aaron Boucher) in the room.  Dennis is now in control as he takes Trip and Sara hostage.  Sara -- still in excruciating pain -- must pit both Dennis and Trip against one another in order to ultimately escape from her captors and survive the nightmare.  If the plot sounds basic, that's because it is.  Though the movie sounds simple with its barebones plot, the movie has more than a few tricks up its sleeve along the way to involve you.  With twists and turns around every corner, Sympathy is cunning, sly and unpredictable.

Further descriptions on the story would ruin the surprises which await you.  To refrain from such, it is best recommended to watch the movie with a blind eye.  The best way to fully realize the movie is to focus on the characters.  Trip may be a bank robber, but he really seems in over his head for the most part, especially when he is compared to Dennis.  Dennis comes across as a sick sociopath, who seems to love the power he has on his captives, mentally and psychologically.  His overall appearance ups the intensity level.  As he becomes more dangerous, the movie becomes more calculating and capricious.  Even if Sara is bleeding and handcuffed on the bed with the pair of Dennis and Trip in the room, she is a slick, strong-willed character who knows what to do and when to act.  It's hard to determine the main character of it all because Sympathy is about all three characters.  They all tell a story of their own in their eccentricities, attitudes and complicated agendas.  The film is essentially a power play, which constantly shifts and tilts.  At times bloody and grim, it racks the suspense with the psychological games.  A fair balance of 70's grindhouse and Hitchockian elements, Sympathy can be recognized best as a psychological horror set within the "thriller" world.  It's a riveting, taut piece of entertainment.

Themes of control and power are heavy here.  There's a bit of sexual interplay going on with Dennis confronting Sara, while handcuffed, saying it has been a long time since he slept with a woman.  Later in the movie, Dennis sticks the barrel of the gun into her mouth after saying the weapon is like an extension of one's body.  This part of the movie is quite intense, and it's moments such as this where the characters really threaten each other with tough dialogue and hard stares and the performances shine.  Marina Shtelen, who currently acts in day time soaps with The Young and the Restless, is a revelation.  She deserves future roles with challenging work, and it'd be wonderful to see her act more.  Aaron Boucher and Steven Pritchard are fantastic playing off each other.  The actors must have truly studied their roles, and they accomplish a lot with limited space.  There is no reason these actors shouldn't have more roles.

Sympathy is about as contained as a movie can get.  When you have a movie as contained and minimalist, it's much easier to pinpoint any of its shortcomings.  The movie is not without a few shortcomings of its own.  Certain moments drag and linger too long and the movie needed an edit to trim it from 104 minutes.  Furthermore, it needs to be mentioned you need to suspend belief with the story as it progresses.  Some viewers may pick it apart piece by piece, but others may not worry much and simply go along for the ride.  Shot with a $6,500 budget, the filmmakers don't rely on anything fancy to tell the story but the excellent sound design, score and cinematography.  Visually, the motel room interior may make the film seem drab or uninteresting, but the camera is top-notch in the way it's always in the right place and properly placed.  Based on his own play, Arik Martin's characters are rats trapped in a tight, claustrophobic maze of their own making, getting deep inside each other's heads.

For an independent feature to accomplish so much with so little, Sympathy is extremely impressive.  Taking into account its budget constraints, the movie proves how small indie films deserve its own audience.  Thankfully, Vicious Circle Films released the movie on DVD.  Here's to hoping Sympathy does not stay under the radar for long.


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