Monday, August 22, 2016

Dan Eberle's back -- with another tight-lipped, slow-burning crime tale, SOLE PROPRIETOR

This will be the third film by writer/ director/star Dan Eberle (shown at left) that TrustMovies has covered over the past decade, beginning with The Local (made in 2008), moving on the the much more interesting Prayer to a Vengeful God (2010), and now Eberle's latest foray into tight-lipped, slow-burning machismo titled SOLE PROPRIETOR. (The filmmaker's third foray, Cut to Black, from 2013, I've not yet seen.)

Eberle (below), who writes, directs and stars in all his films, puts out the image of a beefy, sexy man of few words who plays, in each of these movies, practically the same character. Think of him as a down-market, low-budget Clint Eastwood (I prefer watching Eberle to even the younger Eastwood).

The problem that I increasingly have with Eberle's films, however (except for "Prayer" and its unusual no-dialog format), is that, while the movies may break new ground so far as their filmmaker is concerned, plot-wise they keep offering up the same kind of scenarios we've seen time and again -- from him and so many other filmmakers. There are so few surprises here that, for all the attractive performers, decent acting, good camerawork and other technical aspects on view, a feeling of been-there-done-that quickly sets in.

In Eberle's latest, we have more urban debauchery (his character, wherever the guy may be from, always comes off like a Brooklyn boy): problems involving drugs, prostitution and dirty cops. This time the filmmaker plays a guy on the lam who wants no name attached to him other than "Crowley from the Internet."  While Mr. C awaits a new identity, papers, and other help from the unnamed "consortium" or "corporation" by whom he is employed, he is told that he must do "one more job" for the powers-that-be, prior to getting the help he needs. Ah, yes: the old just-one-more-job ultimatum!

We never learn specific details of that job, but all of a sudden Crowley is involved with a prostitute who's into domination (Alexandra Hellquist, above and below). Fortunately our guy is into masochism, a new wrinkle for Eberle, but one that allows us to see him nearly unclothed -- nice package! -- and makes for a few decent sex scenes.

It also makes for the slow-fuse violence that eventually accrues, as we meet yet another pretty young whore with a sad, fraught history (Alexandra Chelaru, below),

some nasty Russians and Hondurans (including Chris Graham playing one of the former but looking more like one of the latter),

a low-key mob boss and other unsavory characters such as those particularly dirty cops (Nick Bixby, below, plays the dirtiest).

Love, or something akin, begins to bloom, and there are betrayals of all sorts, leading to a nicely effective finale, complete with a shoot-out, in which the various parties collide.

Despite the rather "used" scenario, Eberle has concocted one of his richer arrays of grotesques and urban decay, and his tendency toward less-is-more, in terms of dialog and general explanation, works pretty well in keeping his tale on course.

From Insurgent Pictures, the movie, after completing a week-long run at Hollywood's Arena Cinema, is in release now on select digital platforms. The film will be also featured in the inaugural Venice Film Week, and at the Action on Film festival this September, in advance of a national DVD/Bluray release this December.

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