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Paper Cut

Image // Unrated // August 28, 2007
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted September 8, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Ah, that emblazoned college spirit in full gear can be something of wonder, can't it? Paper Cut, a smarmy satire from director Archie Borders, harnesses a bit of that studious creativity brimming within many ambitious graduates and post-graduates. Though it lacks punch in overall dramatic integrity, Paper Cut's scattered laughs and rustling manner keep this glance into youthful gumption just appealing enough to swallow down after a splash of grubby flavors.

The Film:

Our film focuses on three college friends and their collective enthusiasm for releasing a no holds barred independent publication about Louisville, Kentucky's music scene. Morgan (Justin Shilton), who works at his uncle's dry cleaning business, and Carly (Meghan Faye Gallagher), secretary and writer for an obituaries office, are an item of sorts. Wedged between them is Chuck, a bankrupt, low credit boiling pot of imagination spurned from his mother's (Nora Dunn) Pulitzer-prize winning roots. Together, at breakfast one day, these three crazy kids decide that the music rags around town aren't cutting the mustard, and that enough is enough. They throw their hats in the ring to nail down the cash and piece together Gonzo, Louisville's own underground publication dedicated to the true essence of "the scene".

If we don't take Paper Cut too seriously, then it's possible to have a pleasant time watching these kids throw together their indie rag. Archie Borders' film takes on an Empire Records type keel infused with small dashes here and there reminiscent of Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous. Ultimately, it's about the togetherness (or lack thereof) between three transforming characters with history focused on one rallying purpose. They fumble along the way, annoyingly at times, letting morals and monetary focus dance in front of their noses just like starving post-college artist might do for their creative intentions. Gonzo sees the light of day in quirky fashion, one full of happenstance and construed motives with curiously abstract players.

Of course, misconstrued motives and greed fumble in the way of their devoted integrity. Sex, relationships, money, and fumbling respect for the material all mar the path along Gonzo's rise to prominence. The unbridled spirit of their scene coverage gets murky once these influences flush into the picture. In turn, our characters shift as their concentrations alter; Morgan focuses on the financial aspects, while Chuck gets fired up over his material's bastardization on the editing room floor. Then, once the inevitable assumptions of cheating and emotional attachments surface as a love triangle between the three pioneers, Gonzo's empire begins to tumble.

Paper Cut's static demeanor felt like it could've worked better as a strong television pilot for either a miniseries or a weekly comedic drama instead of a full-length film. When divvied out, all the rushed conflicts that blitzed by my eyes with lightning speed would benefit from further expansion. Instead, they feel glazed over and empty here. An hour and a half to comically illustrate the rickety rise and stabilization of a young project publication just isn't enough. Each segment seems primed for focus, such as the middling problems with a narcissistic copy editor or the troubles with scrounging up the advertising cash to pay for the publication's run. They're compelling and potentially humorous topics, but not without more pizzazz and concentration than we're given in this merely bouyant effort.

All the while, the core relationships also teeter and fluctuate with Gonzo's ebb and flow success as a love triangle forms between our founders. Keep in mind these protagonists lean more on caricature, not honest portrayal. Much of the dialogue isn't terribly natural or particularly funny, yet bizarrely suitable for this satirical outlook. Carly and Morgan both work, to their own varying degrees, as the fitting, level-headed framework for this three-party publication. Morgan's transformation from typical nice guy into a cash-thirsty tycoon doesn't fit, however, even though Carly's parallel reaction to his shift actually does. Her disposition throughout the film is one of the more complete and rewarding elements of Paper Cut.

The most interest lies on our stalwart journalist, Chuck. He's played by Esteban Powell, a young veteran who has made several television appearances along with his small freshmen character part in Dazed and Confused. Powell as Chuck reminds me of some of the same qualities that give David Spade his goofy charm, but with a younger, gruffer, and more austere aura. He's somewhat edgy, but with an ornately geekish demeanor. I bought into Chuck's efforts as a solid journalist and forgivingly accepted his follies. His grasp on humor leans on the dry side, but overall he's decently strong.

In all, Paper Cut delivers with a similarly dry attitude, very coarse and lacking density but still convincing honest on a few fronts. Plus, we're treated to a modernistic sound fueled by a plethora of raw Louisville talent. Borders' film has a minimal modern look and sound nailed down adequately. It's not an overly optimistic or complex story to match, but there's enough eccentric zeal within the respective arty characters to keep us pushing along towards Gonzo's fate.

The DVD:

Paper Cut comes from Image Entertainment in a standard keepcase DVD.

The Video:

Presented in a letterboxed non-anamorphic transfer, Paper Cut doesn't look half shabby after taking its primary fault into account. There's a lot of rich color and dense detail present in the club scenes and such. It gets a little blurry once the smoky haze covers our vision, but overall color levels aren't too bad. Sadly, the lack of an anamorphic image depletes the rating, but overall this little independent flick looks alright.

The Audio:

Oddly, we're working with a Dolby 5.1 audio track to match the lacking visual treatment. However, there's not a whole lot of channel separation or dynamic sound, so it feels vaguely like a plump stereo track. Vocal level is tight enough, as is the accompanying music featuring gristly rock chords. The depth and clarity are purely serviceable. A Dolby 2.0 track is also available.

The Extras:

Nada, save a Scene Selection.


Final Thoughts:

Paper Cut works, if only on scant levels of quirkiness and the semi-concrete artistic ingenuity of today's young trailblazers. With an inertly sparse sense of humor and fumbling character drive, this film pushes forward by the skin of its teeth on sheer narrative steam. It's a flick mildly worth catching as a Rental for those interested in younger character collaborations and motivations.

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