Jimmy Duke Traynor makes some bold claims on his website, including having made 114 movies in 12 years in all genres. If true, this would place him in the running for the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon. He states that his filmmaking style is most often compared to Alfred Hitchcock and James Cameron, two directors whose exacting compositions and editing seem to have had no influence on Mr. Traynor. In the case of this “Bastard”, Traynor also claims to have made the movie in 32 hours without a script. It goes without saying that these two elements do not often result in watchable movies, so to say my expectations were low would be an understatement. That said, “Beat the Bastard Down” was more than watchable, and it appears that Jimmy Traynor may actually be able to stand behind his bold claims.
In “Beat the Bastard Down”, Steve Kovalic plays Phil, a fast-talking, womanizing real estate agent who appears to use his day job as a front for his sexual conquests. He is introduced teaching his friends all about the art of the pick-up, exuding great confidence about his seductive skills. Things take a turn for our hero when he makes the mistake of playing with the wrong lady, Vivian (played with an intense psycho-sexuality by Teddi Florence). She’s the boss at his real estate agency and has her own ideas of how to handle his rejection. After reading a book called, “Beat the Bastard Down” by the author of the bestseller, “Shove It up His Ass”, Vivian decides to put Phil through the ringer.
As you watch the movie, you quickly realize that not only are the production values low, they are virtually non-existent. The settings are everyday living rooms, bedrooms, and offices. The technical quality is like an entry on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Hand-held and lit with mostly available light, the digital camcorder visuals never pretend to be anything but digital video. The sound, while quite clear, is filled with ambience much like a children’s birthday party. You also quickly realize that none of these deficiencies actually matter. They are all swept up by the charm and wit of Jimmy Traynor’s storytelling and sheer enthusiasm that must be the drug that drives a man to make 114 movies in 12 years.
There is something intangible about Traynor’s direction which involves you in the plot and characters in a way most indie filmmakers fail to achieve. Traynor has a certain clarity of thought that may stem from the fast shooting schedule and loose approach. As for the boldness he displays on his website, this is also very much present onscreen. As a filmmaker, he has no fear in going from a battle of the sexes black comedy to a very intense voyeuristic thriller when Vivian’s fianc’e shows up looking to physically beat the bastard Phil down. The movie takes a turn like Jonathan Demme’s suddenly tense “Something Wild”, and does not lose its footing for a second. You get the impression that this young man knows exactly what he wants and is headed right for it.
As for the claim that the movie was improvised in 32 hours, I am sure that was true. The movie has all the marks of a swift production. But while the dialogue may have been improvised, the content of the dialogue and the construction of the plot must have been carefully thought out by the director prior to shooting. It’s way too well constructed to have been made up on the set. This is actually what impressed me most about the movie, the fact that it actually told a story and told it convincingly. Most movies, indie or otherwise fail at this miserably.
The cast is either just like these people in real life or talented actors under the hand of a strong director, because every single character is well served. Kovalic, in particular, is perfect in the lead role, talking in a rhythmic patter that sounds like David Mamet at the Improv. Fabrice Uzan and Ben Schyan are also excellent as Phil’s womanizing buddies, as are Molly Bruno and Kevin Tan, who both take out their frustrations on Phil with hilarious results.
In the end, however, the credit goes to Jimmy Traynor. The man is as bold as his word, and as a filmmaker seems to be ready to reach out to a bigger audience. Or perhaps it’s the other way around, since most of us have yet to catch up on his other 113 films.
Jimmy Traynor (director) / Jimmy Traynor (screenplay)
CAST: Steve Kovalic … Phil Samms
Teddi Florence … Vivian
Fabrice Uzan … Gerard
Ben Schyan … Dean
Sheri Cohen … Patty “Pat”
Leroy Taylor … Daryl