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The Weinstein Company // R // April 24, 2007
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted May 4, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Slingshot, a con job flick from Jay Alaimo, is the result when a personal crime drama neglects to figure in tension, solid characters, or much sense of action or heart. Then, you might ask, what does Slingshot actually have for the viewer's eye? If you throw some hiking boots on and pack a machete for the drudge through this swamp of a character study, there's plenty of water-logged talent to be found bubbling underneath a blanketing fog of ill-conception. Slingshot tends to be aggressive, sluggish, and excessively coarse during its lingering time with the audience.

The Film:

Ash (David Arquette) and Taylor (Balthazar Getty) are two childhood friends turned shifty con artists who slither into a small part of Connecticut searching for a few pricey scores. Defenseless, wealthy women seem to be their mark, and locales such as pee-wee sports arenas and local, downshift bars are their feeding grounds. Taylor seems to be the trapped, yet successful of the two, sulking in a mindless, innocently charming stupor that seems to work for his favor. Ash, however, looks to be the cave-man type, leaning heavily on abrasion and sliminess to work his way into unsuspecting lives. Deep corruption lies underneath the two misguided friends.

Purity surfaces underneath this muck, however, as Taylor finds a way to build a somewhat genuine sincerity for the duo's current target Karen (Julianna Margulies). Aside the brash, vulgar ravings of his counterpart Ash, his adherence to their ways of the world still linger within Taylor. It's only inside a chance encounter with Karen's daughter April (Thora Birch) that Taylor starts to sleepily wake up to the world. Ash, still writhing and scraping together what fragments of malignant wealth he can, fights and whirls around furiously to keep Taylor half-drowning in the mucky detriment of their past life.

After an introductory flashback scene with a shade of integrity, Slingshot's contemptuous demeanor surfaces, and it's not very attractive. Bare bones in plot and heavy on the grit of disparity, this low-impact con caper never ignites that necessary spark needed to flare up a crucial, tickling fire. Slingshot instead tries bombard with vile, grimy attitude as an attempt to shock up a bit of attention. It tries to accomplish this with dry, forced dialogue between our protagonists that scurries and trips much too often. Instead of flowing gracefully and crafting a solid atmosphere, this harshness grasps one of the hardest qualities to grip in a crime drama – dull brazenness. Unattractive and depleted of riveting action or major foreboding scores, the film halfheartedly relies on a host of unappealing central characters to win the audience over.

Slingshot attempts to be this stringent character study, lending coarse temperament to each of our protagonists without much of an appealing persona. Taylor, though innocent and awakening, still feels like a sleazy shark even amidst honesty. It's easy to accept this kid swallowed up in a world of fast cash, but not to any kind of successful level. There's a dim air of charisma about Taylor, yet nothing terribly appealing to relate with. Ash, however, lacks any form of genuine appeal, which begs a peculiar question: How can a character so engulfed in slimy, repellent foulness woo and finagle any woman, even considering they are "in character"? It must root within Arquette's inherently quirky, goofball nature that, once ensnared by a brash, antithetic role, he comes across as off-putting. Neither character carries any substantially compelling layers to peel away. Ash and Taylor barely, and I mean barely, work as the low-kink scum ball crooks that scrape the bottom of the barrel. However, they're certainly not anybody you'd take into your heart anytime soon.

Though impossible to save this waning piece, a few glistening stars flicker within the dense haze. Foremost is Thora Birch. She's an actress that, if given a substantially well-crafted role, could pull off prominence inside her potent, scathing glances. Her lines of dialogue cause a few cringes here, but she lends speckles of brevity to April that would've never been there without her presence. Juliana Margulies shares a similar fate, as well. Though a quaint performance, her dialogue flickers with some of the most pronounced honesty and interest from the entire film. As Birch's mother, she's not the most idyllic choice, but she scrapes together what she can from what's given.

Scraping as much as possible from this rickety substance stands as the prominent theme in Slingshot, both in theme and in cinematic construction. While this indie-ish gritty con flick might accomplish something near what it set out to do, it forgets to grasp an affinity with the viewer. With a little more heart, more energetic punch, and warmer characters, Slingshot might have achieved something more. But then, it wouldn't be Slingshot.

The DVD:

Slingshot is presented from the Weinstein Company in a standard amaray keepcase with simple, decent artwork and replicated discart.

The Video:

Slingshot comes equipped with an anamorphic widescreen image that shapes up to look pretty nice. It's pretty grainy across the board, but the small details and the muted color scheme both appeared pretty clean. Edge enhancement doesn't seem predominately apparent, though a few points were a little halo-ish. Where the transfer shows some strength is within the myriad of close-ups. The detail and flesh tones crossing the screen worked quite well. This isn't a visual flick in the slightest, but the provided quality is actually pretty decent.

The Audio:

Equally strong as the video quality is Slingshot's 5.1 audio presentation. The film's dialogue, which is undoubtedly the prevalent feature, all came through crisp and clean, though it gets a tad muffled in a few scenes. Though there's not much for ambience in the film, the score and sparse sound effects all sounded fine. Most of the action stays focused on the front channels with a very minimal usage of the sub channel. The rear channels see a little bit of action, but most of the strength stands poised at the front.

The Extras:

Nothing but Previews and a Scene Selection.


Final Thoughts:

Slingshot has full capacity to be a more enjoyable film if there were a few mood and script tweaks. However, skipping past this flick seems to be the best option since the off-putting, uninteresting behavior seems to loom too thick amidst the narrative. Slingshot's nerve-grating dialogue and thematic choices make the Skip It option one that's wise to take in this case.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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