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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 11.30.08] post apocalyptic movie review

Year: 2008
Director: Max Pachman
Writers: Max Pachman
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 8 out of 10

I think it's the writer in me that has always loved short films. Sure, a short film can display a director's visual prowess - his mastery of the technology of filmmaking - but so much of what makes a good short film compelling is the screenplay that he/she is working with. 10-30 minutes isn't very long to tell a story (let alone invent an entire world) but, with a solid piece of writing behind you, it's all you really need to suck viewers in and then spit them out the other side. Short films are like short stories and, in my opinion anyway, the best short stories always bring you full circle when you finish reading them. They should leave you with a weird sense that, within the irony of their internal logic, you've just been given an overwhelming understanding about the world.

Case in point, the work of Max Pachman. A relative newcomer to the world of filmmaking, Pachman now has two award winning shorts under his belt and seems to know a thing or two about crafting compelling ten minute tales. His latest is 16th Street, a film set in a post-apocalyptic world where water is scarce and if you have shelter from the constant acidic downpours you could find yourself something of a target. As great PA should be, 16th street is a smart meditation on the darker aspects of human nature. It's also a film that makes good use of a well drawn cyclical script that raises it above its low budget level.

When we meet Adam he lives in a house all by himself. We get the impression from a brief flashback that he hasn't always lived alone but, for better or worse, he seems to be all that's left of a small group of survivors. For some reason water is extremely scarce though so is food and Adam is feeling the effects of intense hunger - even eating rotten creamed corn that has worms in it doesn't seem to satiate him (and we all know how good that combo goes down yum).

But there are other dangers besides starvation in this world. Shelter is hard to come by which makes Adam a target and one day a man comes to the door offering to share his water supply in exchange for entry. A desperate battle of wits ensues between Adam and "The Suit" (played very charismatically by Kevin Lucero Less who will also be appearing in PA film Dust btw). But who will get what they want? And, who must suffer for them to get it? While not quite a "twist," the ending of 16th Street will definitely still leave you with a dark sense of irony as it turns standard notions of antagonists vs. protagonists on their head and makes you wonder whether the definition of good vs. evil is really so black and white.

As you can tell by the stills the film is also shot extremely well with great color saturation. I don't know what kind of equipment Pachman used but 16th Street looks like it was shot on film - I'd even wager a bet that it was 16mm. The film starts out in warm sepia tones but moves increasingly towards steely blues as it progresses towards its moody end. The camera work is also very professionally handled with fluid steady cam movements punctuated by the odd bit of handheld when intensity is needed. Someone needs to get Pachman a feature project already.

I wish I could go into more specific details about what I particularly liked and what I felt was lacking from the plot, but in the interest of keeping the film spoiler free for those of you who might just get a chance to see it one day I'll stay away from too much story critique for now. Maybe I'll add to this review down the line though.

What I can mention are the two principle actors; Dan Wilson who plays Adam and the above mentioned Kevin Lucero Less. Both are fantastic in completely different ways. Wilson plays Adam with little emotion and almost completely silently. In fact, I don't recall him saying a single word in the whole film. Contrasted with Less, who's quick talking and sinister portrayal of "The Suit" is very different, the two actors play compliment to each other and add an interesting layer to the film as a whole.

The thing to take away from this review of 16th Street is that, even though he hasn't added a new dimension to the PA genre, Pachman knows to used the end of the world conceit to its full thematic potential. I mean, where better than a lawless landscape to get to the heart of a man vs. man conflict and deal with moral ambiguities? 16th Street also makes Pachman a talent to watch and I hope we'll be hearing more from him soon.

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Bob Doto (13 years ago) Reply

Where can I see this agento?


filmlyfe (13 years ago) Reply

His ww2 film was well shot. Didnt have much story but well shot.


quietearth (13 years ago) Reply

I hope this gets made into a feature.


agentorange (13 years ago) Reply

Yo Bob! I can probably hook you up with a copy. I'm not sure what Pachman has planned for 16th Street in terms of showings. It's played in a couple of fests but short films have a tendency to kind of disappear (which is why we try to review them here).


futureman (13 years ago) Reply

Agent'o thank you so much for bringing short film into focus, so many reviewers will not shine light on shorts because they will never be released in the multiplex. BTW, I directed (Kevin Lucero Less) dude is a genius, he's in a stage production right now in Chicago playing several different characters and performing all the sound effects into a head mike. I LOVE QUIET EARTH - from Chicago with Love


Tim (13 years ago) Reply

kevin lucero less has his talent on! shine on brotha, shine on!


panman (12 years ago) Reply

I hear that Maxwell Pachman is about to release a new film, early reviews are great, hoping that he makes it into a full length flim.


John M. (12 years ago) Reply

hope he uses the same people, cast/crew as 16Th

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