Be vewy, vewy quiet. He’s hunting wabbits.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/20/2013
Director: David M. Rosenthal
Cast: Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Ted Levine, Kelly Reilly, Jason Isaacs, Joe Anderson, Jeffrey Wright, Ophelia Lovebond, Amy Sloan
Rated: R for some strong violence, sexual content, nudity, language and brief drug use.
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes


Just give me a few more lines of dialogue.

I’ve watched enough movies to know that if I were to accidentally kill someone and discover a sizable stack of cash nearby, the smart thing to do is cover my tracks and leave the money where it lays. Of course, if people actually did that in movies, they’d all be short films and probably lack the tension audiences have come to expect from these tales.

And so, in A Single Shot, Sam Rockwell is our unfortunate protagonist. A simple man, though not necessarily stupid, he’s trying to put his broken marriage back together and after an illegal hunting foray goes terribly wrong, ends up scrambling to put all the pieces together. Who’s money is it? What will they do if/when they find him? Can he use the money to buy the farm (literally) and save his marriage?

Set in a backwoods, rural town, this is sort of like a mashup of Winter’s Bone and Blood Simple. Those are two great films so I expect fans of these noir-ish genre movies might think this is a must see. Well, unfortunately, I have to temper that excitement.

On the plus side, Rockwell disappears into his character; helped by his outward, disheveled appearance – complete with scraggly beard and layers upon layers of flannel. Always an actor I’ve appreciated, he doesn’t disappoint here and it’s a character rarely seen from his repertoire. Rather than the loud, brash, and bombastic dynamo more in line with previous roles, here he plays a man slow to choose his words who is not the kind of guy you invite to a big party … not that he’d go to it either. As events and people close in around him, the desperation Rockwell exhibits is palpable and it’s a very good performance.

The supporting cast is a bit of a mixed bag, however. It ranges from unsurprisingly decent turns from the likes of Jeffrey Wright and Ted Levine to roles either lacking development like that of Jason Isaacs once again playing a bad guy to a completely stereotypical and over-the-top William H. Macy (whom I normally love) as a disabled town lawyer. Sadly, while the screenplay is written by Matthew Jones, the same man who wrote the novel it’s based on, many of these ancillary characters feel just that – superfluous and out of place. There’s likely more connections drawn in the novel but on-screen, even in a film dominated by the less is more theory, cutting back on some of the townsfolk may have been a wiser choice.

Speaking of the film’s sparseness, this definitely isn’t something you want to start watching late at night, or if you’re thinking of taking a nap anytime soon. The pacing is understandably metered to some degree, but another way of looking at it is that it would have been nice to speed it up and get to where we already know we’re going. Having seen enough of this genre, it’s not too hard to see the potential roadblocks and likely conclusions, which is unfortunate. The score doesn’t help things either, often becoming a cacophonous distraction and overplaying its hand.

All that said, A Single Shot hits nearer to the mark than I may have led you to believe. Director David M. Rosenthal did a nice job of immersing us in this backwoods setting and reminded me why I live in a big city. I would have appreciated a brisker pace and a better sense of how the side characters fit into the totality of things but fans of the neo-noir genre will likely appreciate Rockwell’s performance and the convoluted mess he gets himself into.

3 out of 5