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Kino // Unrated // September 6, 2016
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted September 7, 2016 | E-mail the Author
If there's any one lesson all first-time or low-budget filmmakers would benefit from learning, it's to be aware of and work within their own limitations. Those limitations could be anything: a limited budget, a limited amount of technique, subjects or styles a writer knows they're better at than others, etc. That's not to say one can't be ambitious, but the most effective way to realize ambition is to know what the parameters are -- aiming for a specific target that might be beyond one's grasp is better than shooting blindly into the distance. It's a shame, then, that Laura Lee Bahr, writer/director of Boned, actually seems to have a pretty decent grasp on her own limitations, yet still can't quite make her movie hold together.

Things start innocuously, in a parking lot where Samantha (Angelia Landis) and Edward (Josh Randall) meet when she accidentally dings his SUV. She gives him the business card for her dogwalking business as a means of contact info, and is musing about his handsomeness to her one employee, Felicia (Robyn Cohen) when he shows up at said business and hires her to look after his cute Maltese puppy. Although Felicia practically shoves Samantha out of the way to try and hook up with Edward (who happens to be a doctor), things don't seem too weird until Felicia ends up hospitalized with a bullet in her leg and a mysterious story about Edward disappearing on her. Before long, Samantha's pieced together that the Maltese is more valuable than Edward's let on, and it's up to her whether or not to trust him when it comes to trying to protect the poor puppy.

What Bahr seems to envision Boned as is a Coen-esque series of escalating events, mixing mystery and romance with dark comedy. (She's also clearly a little inspired by Humphrey Bogart, what with the joke of the film's MacGuffin being a Maltese, among other minor references.) The complicated result is a movie that both proves Bahr has the ability to understand the pieces, and put them on screen, just not the knack for weaving them together with the kind of oomph or crackle that would bring Boned to life. Between the delivery of Edward's dog and the big finale, Samantha finds herself dealing with defeating advice from her drama teacher, Nina (Jomarie Ward), unexpected developments in the kind of "medicine" that Edward specializes in, a tense audition with her seething ex-boyfriend Julian (Chris Mollica), a gang of weird goth kids who make for ineffective muscle, and their leader, a dominatrix known as The Mistress (Bai Ling). Watching the film, it's easy to tell how the pieces are meant to be zigging and zagging in and out of one another, but the momentum never quite materializes.

Although the movie's pacing is languid, even as action and suspense unfold, Boned is constantly buoyed by lead actor Angela Landis, whose screen presence is nicely laid-back. One of the great risks of doing something in this particular comic vein is the potential for too much exaggeration from a bunch of performers who gild the comic lily into oblivion. Instead, Landis serves as a warm and enjoyable anchor for the movie that helps keep the movie engaging even when it drags in other areas. In fact, the picture is decently cast across the board, with Randall finding the right line to walk between suave and suspicious, and even the notoriously unpredictable Ling turning in a nicely controlled performance (within the context of her being a dog-napping dominatrix queen, that is).

By the time the credits roll (which, unlike many films as of late, scroll by at a reasonable pace without any attempt to pad out the movie's 80-minute running time), Boned doesn't amount to much more than an imperfect, pleasant diversion, but even if the movie can't quite come together, it's nice to get the sense that what doesn't work about the movie could be fixed on a future project, rather than the idea that someone's ego was bigger than their reach. There's a sense of self-control here that's refreshing, a willingness to go for something subtle rather than big every time. Hopefully Bahr and Landis return with another project, this time on a tighter leash.

Boned's key art, depicting Bai Ling in her goth get-up next to the dog, with the logo underneath, in front of a weathered, blood-red backdrop, is reasonably stylish, even if there's a bit of errant font variation when it comes to crediting Bahr. The back cover features a number of pictures that are more indicative of the film's low-budget look. The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, Boned looks fantastic on DVD. Boasting a bright and colorful palette and surprising sharpness for standard-def, there are no issues with the image whatsoever, which has no trouble handling a number of shots featuring shallow depth of field without breaking up into banding, and there's no sign of compression artifacts. The sound design itself is a little sparse, as is the sound design for most low-budget movies, but there's no problem picking up the dialogue or the occasional music cue. For whatever reason, a 2.0 stereo track is also included.

The Extras
The only other thing on the disc is Boned's original theatrical trailer -- not even trailers for other Kino releases before the menu.

Boned is an impressively reigned-in attempt at something many filmmakers with more experience have attempted with an excess of confidence and fallen shorter of success than Bahr does here. If you're feeling adventurous, why not give it a rental?

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