October 13, 2006
ArchImage Studio (US)
Patrick Roddy ArchImage Studio (US)
Gary Shannon as John Mercy
Shelley Farrell as Eve
Julie Ann Fay as Ghost
Carol Anne Gayle as Old Woman
Film Noir: A motion picture with an often grim urban setting, photographed in somber tones and permeated by a feeling of disillusionment, pessimism, and despair. – Dictionary.com
Cinematic Techniques: Methods employed by film makers to communicate meaning, entertain, and to produce a particular emotional or psychological response in an audience. – Wikipedia.com
These two definitions encapsulate Mercy utterly.
The story is of a man (John Mercy played by Gary Shannon) just released from prison and attempting to get a fresh start in “God’s Country” Montana. First, however, John must jump through the hoops of a halfway house and endure a monotonous job and a less-than-sympathetic parole officer.
The monotony and isolation of his new life combined with remembered images of his guilty past result in John slowly backsliding to his prior wicked ways and finally to complete insanity.
The tagline for Mercy is “…you’ll beg for it!” Believe me, I did.
The dark images, minimalist settings, hopeless expression on the face of star Gary Shannon and realization that the outside world is nothing more than a prison without bars is classic Film Noir. In fact, it was actually the definition of Film Noir. I think reading a textbook about Film Noir would have been less painful. After the first hour of minimal dialogue, minimal activity and the four-note soundtrack I was indeed begging for mercy.
The cinematic techniques were wonderful examples of, well, cinematic technique. The visual quality was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie shot on film – very rich and beautiful. The images of isolation achieved through wide shots of a lone John Mercy walking along a wall adorned with a commercial advertisement effectively conveyed his isolation in a world filled with distraction. The minimalist sets and inactive characters conveyed bleakness and an absence of meaning that a suburban Goth-kid could rattle-on about for hours.
Unfortunately Mercy is not a lesson in film technique, but a horror movie. The technical aspects of effective cinematic technique are supposed to enhance the experience of watching the movie and convey depth and meaning, not be an end in-and-of themselves. I felt like I was watching a boring series of film technique/symbolism examples in a lecture hall.
The repetition of themes and symbolisms was another element that removed my ability to enjoyMercy. The first three times that the street hookers roared like lions to illustrate their predatory nature were fine…by the tenth time I was screaming “OK…I GET IT!”.
Film Noir is always a risky art form to criticize. Just as the black-clad art opening crowd will search for depth and meaning in a painting created by dipping earthworms in acrylic because their “inteligencia” friends are watching, many movie reviewers will gush on about Film Noir because if they don’t people may think they just don’t understand. That’s not my style.
I applaud Patrick Roddy’s technical skill as a film maker, and Mercy has many excellent examples of wonderful technique to offer. It is in the areas of creativity, character development and tellling a story that you can care about that Mercy needs a little work.