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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.06.11] Canada review drama mystery

Year: 2011
Director: Simon Davidson
Writer: Simon Davidson
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

As someone who worked through my teen years, I can always appreciate industrious youth who go out of their way to make a little money but this is going a little overboard. With an idea that was sparked after reading an article about a teen bookie who went collecting from the family of a young man who owed a large chunk of money, Simon Davidson's The Odds focuses on a high school gambling operation that gets out of hand.

Tom Cruise look-alike Tyler Johnston makes a splash as Desson Orr, a high school student who spends much of his free time in a basement gambling room operated by Paul, a recent grad of the local high school. Desson owes Paul a big chunk of money and the two have come to a little agreement that allows Desson to pay off his debt a little faster. Desson's best friend Barry is in a whole lot of trouble as well and it turns out that he can't pay what he owes either so on one particularly bad night, he takes a trip to Wings, a much buzzed about place where the back-room gambling involves big money and people who don't take lightly to high school wannabe's. When Barry turns up dead from an apparent suicide, Desson goes hunting for answers. He doesn't believe his best friend killed himself and he's convinced that Barry's death is somehow tied to the gambling operation.

Comparisons to other movies are likely to fly. Though the story sounds reminiscent of both Brick and Rounders, Davidson's film is neither as effective of a mystery as Rian Johnson's film or as dramatic as John Dahl's but it does meet somewhere in the middle with an interesting story and good performances from a young cast of local talent. This Vancouver production is a bit of a who's who of up-and-coming talent and all of these actors are worth noting. Johnston is pitted with carrying most of the film and though he's good, I found his supporting cast, particularly Jaren Brandt Bartlett in the role of Paul, the organizer of the gambling ring, more compelling. But Johnston has charisma and screen presence and though he occasionally falls a bit flat on the emotional rung, he managed to keep my attention for the duration of the film.

Beyond the gambling and mystery, Davidson's script also manages to incorporate a few other side stories all of which help develop the air of reality. There's the expected romance which in this case also leads to an added story dynamic when the love interest discovers what Desson's up to. I was also impressed with the extent to which Desson's relationship with his father is explored.

Beautifully captured by Norm Li, an exceptionally talented Vancouver cinematographer who has worked on everything from Chloe and Attie (full short) to Beyond the Black Rainbow (review), The Odds is not only a great showcase of local talent but also a great first feature from Davidson, a writer/director who appears to have a great feel for storytelling. I look forward to seeing what he delivers next.

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Listless (10 years ago) Reply

Probably my favorite film at WFF.

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