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We live in an interesting time. Traditional media (and its accompanying entertainment trappings) is quickly being replaced by a more progressive approach to amusement. Lloyd Kaufman would call it the democratization of the system, a chance for anyone who wants to "make their own damn movie." Auteur Francis Ford Coppola would reference it as the triumph of technology over mainstream mediocrity. However you refer to it, however, it means the same thing. As with any other form of expression, fans are finally able to make their own versions of the material that made them devotees in the first place. Musicians are now able to create and distribute the sounds that inspired their passion. Similarly, movie geeks are getting to actually make the films that fostered their love of film in the first place. Of course, not every homemade homage is perfect. In fact, some are downright detestable. Luckily, Idleheist is not such a cinematic abomination. Unfortunately, it's no prize movie pig either.
Four friends decide to rob a mountain top convenience store, their plan being to take the strongboxes and run off to the desert trailer of their female accomplice. Naturally, things go awry from the very beginning. Shots are fired and bodies are left for dead. Hostages are taken and well-laid prearrangements quickly fall apart. Eventually, our group has a stand-off with a local park ranger, resulting in more mayhem. With only two members of the crew left, it's imperative they get to the rendezvous. But with time and transportation running out, it will require more than just muscle to make it. Too bad things had to go so badly. Perhaps if the gang had taken things more seriously, they wouldn't have committed such a sloppy, idle heist.
Idleheist plays like the outline for a proposed project ripping off Quentin Tarantino, as well as others (like Guy Ritchie) inspired by Mr. Pulp Fiction's dialogue driven quirk. It believes itself to be much cleverer than it is, and thinks itself quite funny, albeit while failing to provide a single joke. Indeed, this is a movie where the repeating of one word - "relax" - over and over again is considered the height of hilarity - which, of course, it's not. This is also clearly an attempt by first time writer/director Joshua M. Dragotta to make a name for himself in the uber-competitive world of filmmaking. He hopes that style mixed with substance will somehow win over an already jaded indie demographic. But good intentions don't normally yield motion picture masterworks. There are too many other factors involved - the actors hired, the crew employed, the actual translation from idea to reality - that can undermine even the best artistic motives. So while Idleheist wants to be a clever, idiosyncratic statement, it ends up merely being 55 minutes of middling mediocrity.
When your narrative starts with ambiguous figures walking around an unknown location, you have to have a lot of faith in your storytelling abilities. Things can only go downhill quickly from such vague introductory overtures. Idleheist gives us a "mystery woman" followed by some of the longest credits ever created for an hour long effort. We are then suddenly tossed into a group of guys discussing a possible robbery - although the mumble-core conceits of the performances and the recording make it almost impossible to decipher what is actually going on. Again, within moments of meeting our so-called heroes, we are thrown into the title event, a bungled convenience store 'heist' that plays like a rehearsal for what would eventually be a real crime scene. With Reservoir Dog redundancy, innocents get involved, accomplices get shot, and our crew scatters to the arid four corners of BFE, Arizona. Before long, we are down to two, guys gabbing endlessly about mistakes and a proposed rendezvous with the aforementioned unknown gal.
As the word "relax" becomes the kind of ear worm destined to burrow into your brain and remain there, you wonder if Idleheist could get any more mind-numbing. By the third double cross, the answer is more than obvious. Dragotta has a real problem with tone and timing. Events either happen too rapidly or at a pace that would make snails outwardly jealous. His actors are so anemic and prone to ablibbing that we can never tell where the character begins and the "friend of the filmmaker" ends. While it is never fun to condemn someone who is stepping into the fray with their creativity and their ambitions out there for all to see, you have to take the bashing with the ballyhoo. If you can't, then perhaps filmmaking (or songwriting, or singing, or painting) should remain a 'private' passion. Because of its numerous misfires, because it can't decide on whether it wants to be a character study or a work of intricate clockwork plotting (including an obligatory "twist" at the end), Idleheist is an entertainment non-issue. Only individuals desperate for something solidly outside the Hollywood "norm" will cotton to this creative bust.
Offered by BrinkDVD in a decent DVD package, Idleheist has some visual issues. Most of the film looks like it was shot quickly and on the fly, the handheld movements giving way to moments of optical acumen. The Arizona backdrop is realized with occasional grace and there is a dopey dream sequence toward the tail end of the last act that actually offers from motion picture panache. Sure, the 1.33:1 full screen transfer wildly deviates from polished to putrid, though one imagines the moments of excess grain and post-production fidgeting were something the director actually had in mind.
Sadly, outside the interesting soundtrack and some attempted sound design, the aural elements here are very inconsistent. There are times when you can't hear the dialogue. There are other moments when the conversations are loud and clear. The Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 set up is basic, except when the various indie rock tunes come chugging out of the speakers. They liven things up nicely. As with any internal microphone recording ideal, such variations are to be expected. Sadly, Idleheist could use a little ADR to make its meaning clearer.
BrinkDVD usually does a good job fleshing out their micro-budgeted productions, and Idleheist is no different. There is a compelling audio commentary with director Dragotta and music supervisor Jay Verkamp, as well as a Behind the Scenes featurette, a look at the aforementioned dream sequence, and a trailer. In addition, BrinkDVD offers a second disc - a CD - containing 10 songs from the soundtrack. Of all the added content, the discussion between the filmmaker and his friend is the best, since it allows us to hear the original intentions of the movie, as well as the limits placed on them by time, talent, and budget. There is definitely some repetition between the commentary and the other bonus features, but this is an impressive digital package nonetheless.
Had Idleheist been a little more polished, had it taken some more risks with both its material and its making, we'd have something worth celebrating - or at the very least, an effort we'd be proud to support. As it stands, it's hard to see anyone enjoying this sloppy, superficial, and lumbering diversion. Writer/director Dragotta seems capable of doing much more behind the lens that what we witness here, though the lack of an approachable or humorous heist flick does undermine such chances, and as with any small-sized, zero-funded film, it's almost impossible to realize such lofty ambitions. While it would probably deserve a Skip It, this critic is going to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. While delivering a Rent It rating may not seem fair, it definitely illustrates the aura of almost accomplishment here. As technology continues to broaden the creative canvas, more and more movies like Idleheist will have to be considered. Here's hoping that those who finally fulfill their own aesthetic destiny will do so with a little more moxie than this.
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