If there’s one thing that stands out about Thomas Ikimi’s first feature film “Limbo”, it’s that despite of (or perhaps because of?) being shot on digital black and white video, this is one impressive looking film. Ikimi clearly has a good eye for frame composition, and there’s an innate intelligence on the screen and laudable ambition behind the script that you just don’t see a lot in low-budget independent films. Purportedly made for under $10,000, “Limbo” makes a fine first feature, even if it does get a bit ponderous at times, and the middle is not quite as sharp as the rest of the film.
Christopher Russo stars as the improbably named Adam Moses, a lawyer with a shady past who comes into possession of incriminating evidence against a crime boss. When the Mafioso’s attempts to pay for said evidence is spurned, the service of a notorious assassin who never misses is called for. Lured to a city rooftop, Adam is subsequently shot, but death doesn’t come. Instead, our man wakes up from the assassination attempt, unharmed, and for reasons unknown, finds himself stuck in a seemingly endless loop that repeats itself every hour, leaving only Adam to remember the hour previous.
Although the world continues on, resetting every hour, Adam remembers everything that has transpired. His only clue is the attempt on his life, which sends him in search of answers. Adam believes that the answers lie in his capturing of the elusive assassin. Or does it? Is Adam dead, and somehow existing only in limbo, trapped between Heaven and Hell? If that’s the case, why does a woman named Rebecca (Etya Dudko), who Adam first meets in a bar, also seems to be stuck in limbo as he?
For much of its first hour, and despite occurrences of a fantastical element like a time loop, “Limbo” is fashioned very much like an old fashion detective story, the noir qualities of those old stories made even more obvious by the black and white. It’s only later on when, in a spurt of manic anger, Adam kills a homeless man, that the film takes on more overt philosophical intentions. And because “Limbo” (purposely) has none of the whimsical of the similarly themed “Groundhog Day”, Adam’s actions do not involve hitting on the pretty girl in hopes of getting laid, but rather trying to keep himself from continually killing that mugger who keeps trying to mug him, or harming that prostitute who refuses to “just talk”.
God, religion, the nature of man’s free will, and what one should or should not do if there were no consequence to his actions, all come to the fore before all is said and done. These are, without a doubt, pretty heady topics, and Ikimi certainly knows more than his share of Philosophy 101. “Limbo” is indeed a very intellectual film, and if one were uninterested in the subject, one might be inclined to calling Ikimi and his movie overly pretentious. Then again, the fact that the film knows its subject very well would seem to indicate that “Limbo” is very much a heartfelt approach to, as well as a genuine attempt to explore, the subject matter at hand.
A major plus for “Limbo” is leading man Christopher Russo, who carries the entire film from beginning to end like a champ. Russo is a fine actor, and to watch the character slowly unravel from a man who thought he had left his checkered past behind to a man who slowly comes to embrace what he once was, you can’t help but wonder why this guy hasn’t done anything major yet. Less successful are the rest of the cast, but because Ikimi’s script is so Adam-centric, this isn’t an insult. Etya Dudko has little to do as Rebecca. Likewise with John Holt, as a stranger who seems to know what’s going on, or perhaps he’s just crazy.
Another sign of “Limbo’s” success is that you wouldn’t know the film was low-budget if nobody told you. It is that visually impressive, not an easy feat considering the digital video format, which has never been all that kind to visually-inclined filmmaking. Ikimi and company have a fantastic understanding of cinematic aesthetics, and take every natural advantage supplied by the choice to use black and white. Despite some slow spots in the middle, it’s startling how good “Limbo” is, especially for a first feature shot on a meager budget. Mark Thomas Ikimi as a filmmaker to watch.
Thomas Ikimi (director) / Thomas Ikimi (screenplay)
CAST: J.D. Brookshire …. Bobby
Eric Christie …. Vaughn James
Etya Dudko …. Rebecca
Joe Holt …. Lasloe The Great
Kevin Kolack …. Max Duvallier
D. Taylor Loeb …. Veronica
George Morafetis …. Tony Tachinardi
Michael Russell …. Danny
Christopher Russo …. Adam Moses