It's one thing to possess a stylistic deadpan touch and another to be just plain dull. "Lansdown," the feature writing and directing debut of Tom Zuber, is the latest in a string of comedy-tinged indie films noir dating back at least as far as the Coen brothers' 1984 "Blood Simple."
And though there's a thin noir line between lust and hate, "Lansdown" delivers nothing to stir the passions of filmgoers one way or the other.
Paul Shields' Jake Jorgenson is a cuckolded criminal defense attorney in the fictional New Jersey title town who decides that he wants his wife's lover killed. Jake wears crisp white shirts and colorful suspenders and spends most of the film looking alternately doleful, baleful and annoyed.
His reaction to his wife's extracurricular activities registers at the same level as his agitation over tardy research from the intern in his law office.
Lexi, Jake's trophy wife-artist played by Jennifer Carlson (who bears a passing resemblance to Jennifer Connelly), is carrying on a less-than-discreet affair with a young bike-riding, softball-playing roofer (Chris Stewart).
Lexi, it seems, is plagued by the same boredom that will soon envelope the audience.
Jake's former client Gustav (D.W. Warren, who gives a semi-amusing, cockeyed John Malkovich-with-a-funny-accent performance) has provided the photographic and audio evidence that confirms Jake's suspicions but turns down the $20,000 offered to carry out a hit because it would be a parole violation.
He out-sources the job to the Caribbean-accented Gendhi (Patrick Louis), who in turn subcontracts with a couple of dim-bulb weightlifter-petty-thief types named Hector (Chris Baran) and Benny (Marc Krinsky).
Gendhi and the two doofuses go to the work site of the intended victim but manage to botch the murder, winding up with two dead bodies in the trunk of their car.
Unfortunately, neither of the stiffs is the right guy.
Despite the gunplay, the film's dramatic arc flat-lines from the outset, with nary a surprise on the horizon.
The stupidity of the characters is highlighted, underlined and bold-faced for presumably comic effect but, aside from a couple of humorous interludes--including a "Who's on Third?" routine involving a softball team's replacement of a dead infielder on short notice--the film has the punch of a shortstop who's not on steroids.
Though some witty shots and setups indicate that Zuber may have more of a future as a director of other people's material, they're not nearly enough to overcome the sheer inertia of "Lansdown's" script.
Much of the banal dialogue sounds improvised, but it lacks the spontaneity to make it interesting, and two-dimensional characters compounded by mostly leaden performances leave us watching the cinematic equivalent of bad community theater.
Unrated. Times guidelines: Violence, language, sex and a scene of full-frontal male nudity limit this to adult audiences.
Paul Shields...Jake Jorgenson
Jennifer Carlson...Lexi Jorgenson
An Outrider Pictures release. Writer-director Tom Zuber. Producers Jorge Gonzalez, Matt Lendach, Jeff Zuber. Executive producers Ryan Smith, Dave Thatch, Tom Zuber. Cinematographer Ty Bolia. Editor Tom Zuber. Music Atli Orvarsson. Production designer Jorge Gonzalez. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
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