Tape (2001)

I've decided to take a quick time out from reviewing larger films to bring attention to an independent film that most of you have probably never heard of. Tape is the story of Vince (Ethan Hawke) and Jon (Robert Sean Leonard), two friends from high school that have been reunited in a small motel room in Michigan. Jon has done a lot of growing up since high school, pursuing a career in film making, and even has his movie playing at a small film festival. Vince, on the other hand, deals drugs and in his spare time is a volunteer fire fighter (the fire chief is one of his top clients). When Jon is asked by Vince to come to his hotel room, he figured the night would be spent reminiscing and maybe getting a bite to eat. He was partially correct. Soon after arriving, Vince begins to press Jon about a girl, Amy, they both dated back in high school. Jon tries to defend himself from Vince's accusations, but after some time he angrily admits to doing something wrong. At this point tensions rise even further as Jon discovers Vince has not only recorded their conversation but he has invited Amy (Uma Thurman) to join them in the hotel room. Once she arrives, the three struggle to determine fact from fiction from three differing views.

Originally a one act play by Stephen Belber, Tape takes place in a single room with only then three characters I previously mentioned. The camera is out of focus, and given the small surrounding there wasn't much to be done with the cinematography. But what is delivered in Tape is a taught, well written performance piece that will ensnare you in its conflict. Vince is played effectively by Ethan Hawke, who seemed very fit to play the part. He was very believable as the jerk who never grew out of high school and always wanted things his way. His seemingly oblivious exterior makes it all the more startling when we discover his mind is indeed not vacant, but filled with cunning and trickery. Robert Sean Leonard plays Jon Salter, who gets blindsided by Vince's spontaneous outburst of deceit. Leonard gives a great performance of varied emotions throughout the film. He is able to flow from easygoing, to confused, to angry, back to confused, back to angry, and then finally repentant. Rounding out the cast is Uma Thurman, who plays Amy Randall. Since high school, Amy has moved on and is now an Assistant District Attorney. But upon entering that hotel room, memories are brought back to life, causing her grief once more. Thurman arrives more than halfway through the film, and her intial performance isn't much to write about. As her story progresses, we begin to see more emotion from her as she jumps on the bandwagon of good performances.

Although it is a very good film, Tape does have several flaws that were problematic. The main issue is length. Now, the actual running time of the film is only about 86 minutes, which in any other case is too short. But for a film that takes place in a single room where the same characters continually talk and talk and talk, a good 16 minutes could have been chopped off. Most of the dialogue was alluring, but not ALL of the dialogue was alluring. And watching a couple of people sit in a hotel room and talk about something your not interested in can really make time slow down. Another problem is Vince. In the beginning and middle of Tape, Vince is a portrayed as a jerk, but you still enjoy watching his character. But after a while, he really begins to get on your nerves. His toying with Jon is supposed to be clever, but simply comes off as childish. Hawke's performance was very good as I stated, but his character is a different story.

A solid indie flick, Tape is not going to entertain you with action or thrills, but rather performances and writing. If you somehow stumble on this movie, do not toss it aside. My rating (7/10)

1 comment:

  1. it peaked my interest
    i think you've mentioned it before, it sounded good and your review was very well thought out and very well writteb. two thumbs up. =]


Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange