Last seen this summer in the romantic comedy Mickey and Me, local filmmaker Mickey Reece and his Fall Films repertory company return with a dramatic thriller in A Destructive Manner.
This time, however, directorial duties have ceded to the hands of two of his players, James Paulsgrove and Dallos Paz, and Reece takes center stage as the star. Judging from their behind-the-camera debut, the former have absorbed much of the latter’s mode.
In other words, it’s very much cast in Reece’s style. Having seen more of his films now than I can count, I feel like I have a good handle on what those rhythms are; I kept forgetting this wasn’t directed by him. Hopefully, Paulsgrove and Paz take that as a compliment, because A Destructive Manner is a mostly solid stab right out of the gate.
Shot almost entirely in the Oklahoma City metro area, the 70-minute movie screens at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Paramount OKC on, fittingly enough, Film Row.
Reece plays Mason, a “loser” despised by his co-workers at the firm where his attendance record and sales figures are in such decline that he’s on thin ice, yet has the gall to ask for a raise. His wife (Rebecca Cox) is not only more affectionate toward their dog, but straying outside the marriage for sex.
From spats over an office parking spot to being caught masturbating, Mason is not experiencing the best of times. After a death in the family, he reaches a boiling point and, under the guise of a trip for work, flees for a couple weeks to jump-start an unhealthy relationship with a stripper (Cathleen Housley), whose pole-shimmy routine alone screams “bad news.”
(The terms of that relationship could stand to be spelled out more clearly, but even with any confusion on the viewer’s part, the filmmakers’ attempt to disturb is not greatly diminished.)
Narrates Mason, “Love is the tie that binds, and the tie that chokes. Love is a rock. Love is a kidney stone,” so clearly the guy is not in his right mind. The audience eagerly, yet uneasily, awaits the snap.
When it comes, it’s visually pleasing. Shot in silhouette against a primary-red wall, the striking sequence recalls the sword fight of 1998’s Samurai Fiction (and, by extension, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill). It’s detailed and observant and calculated, like much of the picture.
In forming the twisted triangle, Housley, Cox and Reece compose the crux of the story, but Paulsgrove and Paz pull an even keel of performances.
With so many of these actors making so many movies together, perhaps they’re so relaxed with one another, it doesn’t take much goading. —Rod Lott