Mercy Movie Review
Written by Eric Strauss
DVD released by Patrick Roddy/Amateur Productions
Written and directed by Patrick Roddy
2006, Region 0, 85 minutes, Not rated
Gary Shannon as John Mercy
Shelly Farrell as Eve
Charles McNeely III as the parole officer
and Julie Ann Fay as the ghost woman
Patrick Roddy's Mercy is a fascinating bit of filmmaking.
Not a lot "happens," and not a lot "makes sense." But what Roddy does is craft an atmosphere for his film, carefully treading the axis of suspense, character study, metaphor… and boredom.
It's not a horror film, per se, but it's a film where dread takes center stage. Dread of desperation, dread of routine and, finally, dread of the unknown and out-of-your-control.
John Mercy is an ex-con who is trying to start over after his release from prison. He's done something horrible, though exactly what isn't clear. And even as he tries to stay on the straight and narrow, someone or something is conspiring against him.
The first half of the film is devoted to Mercy's daily routine. He wakes up in his tiny room in a fleabag men's hotel. He trudges to work. He runs a drill press. He trudges home, through hooker-filled alleys. He stops by the bar — where he doesn't drink, so as not to violate his parole. He goes home and lies in bed, dreaming of a peaceful, quiet life in Montana.
There's a lot of silence, punctuated by the heavy chords of the soundtrack. It makes for a hell of an effect.
Add in lead actor Gary Shannon's fine, nuanced performance, and Mercy keeps you watching, even during the long, tone-setting stretch of drudgery.
Everything changes one visit to the bar, when Mercy meets Eve, an alleged actress, who takes a liking to him. But along with the good things, the bad ones start, too.
It's one thing when he keeps seeing a ghostly woman — who you suspect from Jump Street is tied into his crimes. But it's another thing entirely when he starts forgetting things.
Not little things like where he left his keys. Big things.
Like how he lost a finger.
And an eye.
So as John Mercy's dream of a quiet, peaceful life descends into madness, Roddy builds the tension, in the best David Lynch style. There are clues everywhere, and no easy answers.
To the very end, the film remains an enigma.
But that's okay, because it keeps your attention, even as you wonder along with Mercy just what the hell is going on.
Video and Audio:
Audio/video and special features will not be graded, as this is a screener disc.
Special features also will not be graded, but the screener includes a few extras worth mentioning.
The most interesting is an alternate audio track — featuring some hideously clichéd John Mercy voiceovers that fill the silent parts of the regular track and change the tone of the film dramatically from the first scene. And not for the better. Roddy's choice of silence is, indeed, golden.
There are also a small slideshow and short behind-the-scenes clip.
Normally, when someone says a film is a triumph of style over substance, they mean it in a bad way: A movie that's slick, pretty, but vacant, a la Michael Bay. Mercy is a triumph of style over substance, but in this case, that's a compliment: Roddy and Shannon make even an ex-con's deadly-dull routine interesting to watch. And when things finally go haywire, they never lose their way.
(Weapons of Choice: Mitsubishi 1080 series 42" TV, Sony DVP-CX995V DVD player, Bose Lifestyle 25 Series II speakers, Apple iBook G4 and, in certain situations, Panasonic 27" TV, Panasonic A110 DVD player and Bose TriPort headphones.)
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