Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Catch 22 - Based on the Unwritten Story by Seanie Segrue (January 27th at the Apollo Theatre)

[CATCH 22 – BASED ON THE UNWRITTEN STORY BY SEANIE SEGRUE screens Friday January 27th at midnight in Oberlin, OH at the Apollo Theatre.

Ever wonder what it would be like if you took the premise of THE HANGOVER films – a group of friends party really hard and wake up the next morning not remembering what happened – and transformed it from a raunchy comedy into a grim and girtty drama? The result might be something like writer/director Josh Folan's CATCH 22 – BASED ON THE UNWRITTEN STORY BY SEANIE SEGRUE.

Here the group of friends aren't gathered to celebrate one of their number's impending nuptials, but rather to give a proper sendoff to Vince (Jayce Bartok), who is about to begin serving a 15 year sentence for dealing coke. None of these guys are angels, though. Bird (Al Thompson) deals drugs as well; he just hasn't been pinched. Smoke (Brock Harris) is a bus driver, family man, and a rapist. Mikey (Donal O Healai) is a bartender and (not so) recovering alcoholic. And Seanie (Michael Rabe) is an author with a dark past of his own, who has made a successful career for himself writing about the sordid adventures of himself and his friends.

The morning after Vince's going away party, Seanie wakes up first to find the prostitute hired for the night before (Charmane Star) is lying dead in the bathtub. No one remembers how this might have happened, but based on the bruises on her body, it looks like one of them may have killed the girl. Eventually the friends decide that, whatever happened and whoever may have been responsible, the best course of action is to simply cover it up. But as they go about trying to do so, tensions start to rise between them.

What we have is essentially a stage play transformed into the medium of film. It's (mostly) five guys in one room talking. At some point they venture outside and talk, and there's a brief interaction with another character at a store. But if the entire thing had taken place on one set, it probably would have worked just as well. In short, not particularly cinematic.

To compensate, Folan tries to juice things up with stylistic affectations. The film is shot in a sickly color pallette. There are frequent jump cuts in the present and quick cuts to (mostly pointless) flashbacks accompanied by the grating sound of static. The set design includes such touches as pubic hairs and a cigarette butt floating in the toilet Seanie pukes in during the opening credits. Probably a good 25% of the dialogue consists of shouted profanity, and there are a couple outbreaks of racism among the friends which don't really illuminate anything or make much sense in context of the plot, but do add to the overall tone of ugliness. You almost have to admire the attention to detail taken to make CATCH 22 as unpleasant a viewing experience as possible.

So maybe it's Folan's intent that viewers don't enjoy watching his movie. If so, mission accomplished. And that's fine in some cases. I'm just not sure what the point is here, though. There's not a single likeable or laudable character to be found, and despite the best efforts of a solid ensemble cast, none of the characters are even interesting. And while not every film that depicts misogynistic acts is itself misogynistic, the way that the victim is dehumanized and treated as little more than a prop here makes it hard to defend CATCH 22 from such charges.

For a film shot on obviously limited means, CATCH 22 does at least look professional, if ugly. And as mentioned elsewhere in this review, the cast is good. No one is a household name, but all the main actors have been in a lot of episodic TV, and their experience shows. Thompson is probably the best known cast member, having been a regular voice actor on The Cleveland Show. It's not a completely awful film, but if it has a point I guess I didn't get it. 2 out of 4 stars.

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