At the last count over twenty three thousand and seventeen films begin with a character about to bury a body before jumping back to before the presumably murderous incident, it’s one of the least original setup’s in cinema history. It’s a device that sometimes annoys me too, especially if the scene doesn’t occur until near the end of the movie, but pleasingly in this latest entry in our Cult Classics series it’s pretty clear about twenty minutes in why it takes place and isn’t a major plot device in the scheme of things.
A comedy thriller shot mostly in black and white, it’s a smart, twisty affair that while slightly complicated plays out in an involving and amusing manner. After that initial scene it flits back to the life of an average joe, the majestically named Ulysses T. Lovin (Travis Swartz) who late one night answers the door to Milton Montgomery (Ross Partridge) a slick individual who claims he’s not a salesman, but if Ulysses lets him he’ll tell him a story that will benefit him, and if he’s not interested by the end he’ll leave. Said tale is about a bank robbery a few years back that was supposedly committed by Milton’s brother and his girlfriend Norma (Jennifer Lafleur) with the latter sending him a code within a book (the 6 Dynamic Laws For Success of the title) which revealed where she hid the loot – and that location is Ulysses’ house – and if Ulysses let’s him search the place he’ll split the money with him down the middle.
Being a naive and slightly desperate young fella, as his wife wants to divorce him and sell the house, Ulysses trusts him, but soon he’s slipped a mickey. When he awakes he finds himself tied up on the sofa while Milton, who it’s revealed committed the robbery in the first place, is knocking holes in walls attempting to find the cash. A short time later and Milton’s dead, Ulysses has the book, and quickly makes a discovery as to where the money might actually be. But why are two sisters (Sara Lynch and Lisa King Hawkes) watching him from their car? And does he have the moxie to repeat Milton’s patter and trick another in to letting him search their house?
Meanwhile we also get the story of Norma told in flashback shortly after the robbery and Milton’s subsequent arrest, where she hides away in a house occupied only by a young boy as his parent’s are out of town at a funeral, and has to deal with nosy neighbours and a way to hide the cash so that she can make her escape without suspicion. The plot line’s engaging stuff, Norma’s a sassy if harsh woman who’s prepared to do whatever it takes to survive, even if that does mean breaking most of the ten commandments, bar the one about the ox.
All of this may seem rather serious but the tone is light and playful, and every so often one of the six dynamic laws is read by an unseen narrator which ties in with events in Ulysses’ life as he reads the book which he believes will help him with his misguided mission. Norma also has a fine line in brutally sharp discourse, Ulysses’s attempts at being a suave con man amuse, and the two sisters are endearingly quirky and pretty unique. It’s a mixture of dry farce, physical comedy and ruthless connivery, and all three combine to make for an extremely engaging film.
Written and directed by Gregory Bayne it feels like a lost Coen Brothers film from before they made The Big Lebowski, mixed with a pinch of Sam Raimi, but not to the extent that you end up with Crimewave, a film which I love but which is far sillier than this. Some of the acting is slightly dodgy (though out of the leads only Sara Lynch lets the side down) but other than that it’s all but flawless. Filmed in black and white and stylishly shot with split screens and a sometimes jazzy soundtrack (but the good kind of jazz, rather than the bad evil type) it’s a funky little comedy, a tight, stylish, fun piece with lots of twists and turns that stays captivating right through to the very end.