[LISTENING screens Friday September 11th at 9:30 pm at the Capitol Theatre for one show only.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
In writer/director Kahlil Sullin’s debut feature LISTENING, broke college students David (Thomas Stroppel) and Ryan (Artie Ahr) are working on a machine that can decode human thought. Once sexy mystery girl Jordan (Amber Marie Bollinger) worms her way into their project, her suggestions help turn the device into a telepathy machine. Meanwhile, the CIA is working on a way to implant suggestions into people’s minds. When the project leader gets wind of our protagonists’ invention, he realizes they may well have succeeded where his own scientists have failed, and sets out to obtain the technology one way or another. Amidst all this intrigue, David’s home life with wife Melanie (Christine Haeberman) and daughter Lana (Mykayla Sohn) is falling apart, exacerbated by his attraction to Jordan, who is in turn romantically involved with Ryan.
There’s also an attempt at social commentary about the government using technology to subvert free will, with one of the main characters finding it morally repugnant, while another argues that humanity would actually benefit. Pretty standard issue thematic stuff, really, and not handled with nearly enough subtlety or originality to be interesting or truly thought provoking.
LISTENING wants to be an intelligent, low budget sci-fi film in the vein of PRIMER or PI, but it’s way too silly and soapy to take as seriously as it takes itself. Everyone involved seems to be trying their best, the padded plotting, bland direction, competent but undistinctive performances, and overall aura of cheap flatness just scream “straight to video”. The film also goes for a touch of titillation with a few sex scenes and some nudity courtesy of Ms. Bollinger, further reinforcing the low budget quickie vibe of the film, while at the same time not going far enough to satisfy on that level. It all leads up to a less than thrilling conclusion that plays like the final showdown in SCANNERS without the money shot. 2 out of 4 stars.