Crime thrillers are a dime a dozen. Your friendly neighborhood video store is presently littered with several failed attempts, numerous missed opportunities, and a plethora of misguided knock-offs. Few directors truly understand the genre, while the rest mindlessly assume that anyone who’s seen “Scarface” and “New Jack City” can make their own masterpiece with very little effort on their part. Don’t get me wrong – I’m by no means an expert on the subject, though I’d like to think that I’ve seen enough bad movies to know what works and what doesn’t. This, of course, probably makes me sound like a very sad and lonely individual. Let’s move on, shall we? Thank you.
Maybe my endless search for something fresh, new, and creative is why Lexington, Kentucky native Ben Burke’s ambitious crime outing “Nobody in Particular” astounded me on so many levels. Equal parts Coen brothers drama and gritty Hong Kong thriller, Burke manages to take a painfully familiar setup – boy and girl on the run from dangerous men in sharp suits – and give it an entirely fresh coat of cinematic paint. However, it’s not so much what Burke does with the material that’s so remarkably profound. In fact, it’s what he doesn’t do that leaves the biggest impression on those who have grown hopelessly jaded with modern-day American crime cinema.
Instead of approaching this well-known tale in a traditional manner, Burke instead drops us in the middle of an extremely hairy situation that’s already in-progress. What sort of situation, you ask? I’m not entirely sure. Who are the people involved in this scenario? Again, I’m not quite sure. When the film opens, all the audience really knows is that a handsome guy (Nathan Todorro) and a sexy girl (Katie Keene) are on the run, nothing more. As the story unfolds, we learn that they’ve got a very important briefcase in their possession, a suitcase that a very menacing fellow and his violent cohorts will stop at nothing to retrieve. The entire bloody affair is purposely and brilliantly vague, and therein lies the beauty of “Nobody in Particular”.
What, exactly, did this impossibly attractive couple steal? Who did they steal it from? How is the girl connected to the mysterious stranger with a penchant for leather gloves? More importantly, where and when did all of these people meet in the first place? None of this is ever explained, and the story is that much stronger for it. Details and specifics are nowhere to be found, a bold move for a picture that relies so heavily on emotion. Despite the absence of names, back stories, and, on occasion, dialogue, Burke captures the tender moments with surprisingly intensity. It’s damn-near brilliant in its design and execution, though I only wish the picture had been a bit longer. At roughly 70 minutes, the film left me wanting more. I mean that in a very positive way, of course.
We don’t get American thrillers like “Nobody in Particular” very often. When we do, they’re often produced independently by filmmakers who are ready and willing to leave their mark on the genre. Ben Burke is certainly on his way up, and this remarkable little tale of nobody in particular will probably end up being his calling card. His ability to balance brutal violence, pitch black humor, and palpable suspense is already above and beyond those who are vomiting formulaic drivel into North American movie houses at this very moment. Burke, along with his immensely talented cast and a fantastic soundtrack by Englishman, has accomplished what so many have tried before: to craft an intelligent, thought-provoking crime drama that nobody has seen before. Well done.
Ben Burke (director) / Ben Burke (screenplay)
CAST: Nathan Todorro … Nobody in Particular
Femme … Katie Keene
Ed … Ed Desiato
Ronda … Ronda Harmon
Jim .. Josh Bentley
Apollo Bacala … Bad Guy
Mike Van Zant … Bad Guy
Eddie Salone … Bad Guy
William Brown … Bad Guy