Known for it’s unique style, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope attempts to give the illusion of the film being one giant take. An ambitious idea to say the least, in 1997 decided to try to one up the master of thriller films by trying the same idea but with the twist of filming on location. Rope was done on a sound stage, while Becker’s film Running Time would follow its characters all over the California landscape. A tough challenge no doubt for Becker and his cast, but where they up to it?
Carl (Bruce Campbell) has just been released from prison and we literally follow getting his escort out into the real world. After getting a nice sendoff from the warden, Carl is set free and not even 5 minutes into his freedom he is hatching a new get rich quick scam. Picked up by his high school buddy, Patrick (Jeremy Roberts), Carl has a quickie with a prostitute, Janie (Anita Barone), who turns out to be his old high school crush. Once dropping her off, the two buddies pick up the rest of their crew for a heist. No time wasting here. Planning to rip off money from the very prison he just left, Carl and his group are in a race against the clock to pull off a perfectly timed crime that will leave them all a whole lot richer.
I know this is a horror site, but I figured I had to review this anyways since Bruce Campbell is such an icon to the genre. This film really does pull off its style well. No all the cuts are not hidden as well as they could be but some are excellent. And the long takes alone are impressive and something you hardly ever see anymore. For that alone Josh Becker should be commended. Actually the crew should get just as much credit. Some of the takes are extremely long and impressive. The fact that a guy is running around carrying a steady cam all this time is commendable. Then add in that the sound crew has to work to stay out of every shot and make sure no shadows are present. This truly is a technical film lovers movie. The story here is tight and fast moving. Running at a scant 70 minutes, the story runs in actual real time and that draws you into the story. The characters are believable. Who doesn’t have those friends who haven’t let high school issues go. Even with the unique visual style the story still drives this picture. You truly feel sorry for Carl, even though he is obviously a crook, and you want everything to work out for him.
For a small independent film that most people haven’t heard of, the acting here is top notch. I know I am biased towards Bruce Campbell being a huge fan of his, but he really shines here. Once again proving the man has chops outside the horror genre, his portrayal of Carl creates more depth in 70 minutes than I have seen in many 3 hour films. Again this film begs the question of why he doesn’t show up more often in film. Equally impressive is the rest of the cast. Jeremy Roberts is excellent as Patrick. He is scummy yet you almost fell sorry for him. Then the next minute you want to punch him. And we can not forget Anita Barone as the prostitute with the heart of gold, sort of. Besides being incredibly attractive here, she creates such a sympathetic character. You could feel her heart being torn out by Carl in certain scenes. Even the rest of the cast is great. No bad performances here. When was the last time you could say that for a no budget film?
I’ll admit I was a little tentative about this film when I picked it up. I figured it would be lacking story or depth since Becker was resorting to such a different shooting style. Well serve up my plate of crow. This film sucks you in from the first scene and doesn’t let go until the end. No it isn’t an action packed film. It is definitely performance driven, and those performances are stellar. The style never distracts and the real time aspect is all the more impressive. Becker shows promise of a great career and Campbell is as enjoyable as he has been since the Evil Dead trilogy or Brisco County. I highly recommend this film for Bruce fans or film buffs. With all the flashy crap pumped out today this is a breath of fresh filmmaking. 9 out of 10.