March 12, 2018 Los Angeles Overnight (Movie Review)
Arriving on VOD on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 via Freestyle Digital Media, Los Angeles Overnight is the first feature-length film from Australian director Michael Chrisoulakis (The Bind short 2011, Kill Switch short 2013). Like 2017’s Sightings, it started off as a Kickstarter project: it was originally called Day for Night, and was funded across February-March in 2015. According to the campaign page, 137 people across the US, UK, Australia and beyond answered the call for financial support. So, the big question here is fairly obvious: is Los Angeles Overnight worth it?
One can guess from many of their pledge package names that Chrisoulakis and Writer Guy J. Jackson (Talents 2015, Paranormal Halloween 2015) had a film noir in mind. More specifically, the film is a neo-noir Thriller about how ambition can get one into trouble. Aspiring-actress-yet-current-waitress Priscilla Anders (Arielle Brachfeld: Chemical Peel 2014, Snake Outta Compton 2018) has been trying to break into Hollywood for years but has had no luck. She is considering moving back home when she overhears some diners hinting at a hidden stash of cash.
Intrigued, Priscilla brings lovelorn mechanic Benny (Azim Rizk: Power Rangers: Megaforce series, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 2016) along to help find the stash, crack it open and live the high life. The only problem is that the L.A. underworld does not take kindly to people stealing their loot. Will Priscilla and Benny get away with the money or will it all be for naught?
It is unlikely the budget went up into the millions, but they did promise that an internationally-famous star would make an appearance in the film. Hence why the film opens with Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show 1971, Paper Moon 1973) as Vedor Ph.D. He does a hypnotherapy session with Brachfeld’s Anders, while also narrating her many desperate attempts to get acting roles. It is an effective montage showing how frustrated she is with life in L.A., from dealing with stuck-up casting directors to pleading with her tired manager O’Dell (Andy Sell: Fan Wars 2012, Zombie Cops 2014). That is without mentioning Bogdanovich’s soothing speech about growing stronger against adversity; the film certainly knows how to put its strongest foot forwards.
Bogdanovich’s Vedor crops up every now and then, usually when Anders is recalling his advice. He is the most high-profile member of the cast but the others hold their own well. Brachfeld does a good job at being at the end of her rope, like she would go to any length to live comfortably for once; enough to steal cash from some suspicious types. In turn, Rizk makes a sympathetic figure out of Benny; socially awkward and a touch too gullible for his own good. He is just as much led by desperation as Anders, but he feels like a lamb led to slaughter when the villains arrive.
Julian Bane (Doctor Who: Alternate Empire series, Absolute Time 2014) lives up to the quirky-yet-dangerous label as crime boss Wooks. He delegates grim jobs to his henchman Karl (Carey Fox: Roller Boogie 1979, Firestarter 1984) or to low-rung mook Smalls (Writer Guy J. Jackson), yet is in denial over how unhinged he is in turn. The latter are intimidating in a traditional way- heavy handed, cold-blooded, and kind of creepy. However, Wooks’ odd mix of psycho and regular guy works at making him that little bit more worrisome.
For the most part the writing does a good job in building up the chills, creating dark characters and interesting twists; it makes for a solid noir story. Yet certain scenes do take something away from its atmosphere. For example, Wooks and his wife Abelie (Ashley Park: This Just In series, Rosewood series) discussing their home situation would have worked better placed earlier on than close to the climax; as is, it feels like an odd turn before a heavy situation. Likewise, the dialogue takes the odd weird turn (“apple jacks”?), but that is relatively minor in comparison.
There are more pluses in its favour than negatives though. The camera work looks lovely, if quite stylised, but it pays off with the lush shots of the city skyline or the way casting director Elsa (JamieLee Ackerman: Paranormal Halloween 2015, My Sister 2016) is introduced for each audition. The lighting comes out well too, though it is where the film wears its influences on its sleeve. The way it uses lighting feels like it was inspired by Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising 2009, The Neon Demon 2016) and his work. The early ’80s-style, electro-synth soundtrack certainly nods towards 2008’s Bronson or 2011’s Drive, or rather shouts it as it blasts through the film’s tenser scenes.
However, it does not beat Refn at his own game, as its quirks do not quite match up to the Danish director’s best. Fortunately, that does not mean it is not good though: the acting is solid and the cinematography is on point; it keeps its atmosphere going with its tense, if loud, soundtrack and interesting, if oddly arranged, story.
Also starring Lin Shaye and Oscar-nominated actress Sally Kirkland, it is a strong tale of what desperation can lead to, and how bad choices do not just affect the one who makes them. So those backers should be glad to have supported it, and VOD viewers should be pleased to see it too. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.