The Jogger Movie Review
Written by Greg Fisher
Released by Inception Media Group
Written and Directed by Jeff Robison and Casey Twenter
2013, 72 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on March 1st, 2016
Derek Phillips as Paul
Jason Wiles as Malcolm
Cameron Richardson as Carol
The Jogger comes across the finish line of its scant 72-minute run much better off than it starts or even appears at the hour mark. The strength of that last burst of storytelling erases much of the middling development and stagnant action of the rest of the film. If only writer/ directors Jeff Robinson and Casey Twenter had been as clever and took as many risks through the whole film, this might have been one great ride. As it stands, it is a middle-of-the-road thriller with an above-average cast and a good ending.
The story is told in two interspersed sections. In the present time, Paul, the titular jogger, goes from a leisurely nighttime run to being chased through the woods by a mysterious psycho who threatens to kill him. The other storyline rewinds and shows how a man as seemingly harmless and cowardly as Paul came into the situation, and follows through the late night jog and its consequences.
The bulk of the movie's wheel spinning stems from a lack of momentum towards character development. The three main characters react to the events, but refuse to be anything more than the one- to two-note personas they show through the expositionary scenes. Paul is a placating, spineless lemming, refusing to stand up to his bullying coworker, or to the shadowy assailant chasing him through the woods throughout the film's cut scenes. His wife Carol is worried and overly cautious in every scene, and Malcolm, the aforementioned coworker, is written with all of the tact and class of a $5 whore. Only Paul changes through the climax, at least in any appreciable way.
This deficiency is clearly laid at the feet of the writing, and not the cast. Derek Phillips builds on the career of wimpy losers he's played through Friday Night Lights and a fantastic recent turn in Longmire. While at some points his portrayal feels indistinguishable from those previous roles, or even like he was chosen because Kyle Borheimer had a prior commitment to a soon-to-be-cancelled sitcom, Phillips breaks through elsewhere. Paul may be meek, but Derek Phillips grasps this ferociously enough that the audience buys in totally. Jason Wiles plays Malcolm with more depth than the character is scripted or likely deserves, relishing the brutishness and crassness of his lines. Cameron Richardson takes what should be a weak, indecisive character and imbues her with a quiet vulnerability, and adds subtle motivation that feels absent from the script.
Despite any deficiencies in the script, the visuals and camerawork are top notch. After a disappointingly overly elaborate opening title sequence, things get tightened up quickly. The chase scenes are blocked and executed with precision, augmenting any tension the dialogue fails to build. The filmmakers have a knack for using long, uncut shots as well as prolonged tracking shots to establish mood and setting. The only questionable choice they make are with the staccato music-video style edits they make with the opening scene and one later scene. It looks to be used to purvey an edgy feel, but succeeds only in taking the audience out of the story.
The audience scarcely can tell that the film worked on a shoestring $500,000 budget thanks to excellent casting and proficient technical work. Given a tighter script, Robinson and Twenter's next project should be something to look out for.