It’s very rare that I see a movie cold. Meaning that I have not heard anything about it nor watched the trailer. I got invited to a screening of A SINGLE SHOT at THE Q&A WITH JEFF GOLDSMITH and the poster looked intriguing (aka a great cast) as well as the synopsis. So no preconceived notions. Just sit down and watch.
Unfortunately, I was a little underwhelmed by the film. Beautifully shot with some fine performances, the movie still didn’t add up for me and it was overly long and ponderous at 116 min.
Mind you, the movie starts off interestingly enough. John Moon (Sam Rockwell) is a scruffy poacher in the Appalachian backwoods who has fallen on hard times. His wife Jess (Kelly Reilly) has left him taking their infant son and he can’t seem to hold down a job. Out on one of his early morning deer hunts, he fires at what he thinks is a deer only to find that he has in fact mortally wounded a young woman.
Devastated by the accident, but fearing for what this might mean for him, he attempts to hide the body. To make matters worse, among her things he finds a box containing tens of thousands of dollars (if not more). Of course the money belongs to someone and when they come looking for it, they will stop at nothing to get what’s theirs.
My biggest issue with the film is that none of the main characters are even remotely sympathetic, most importantly Rockwell’s Moon. He comes across as self-absorbed and stupid; making dumb decisions that will obviously expose him and his crime. His wife who he loves is equally unsympathetic at one point leaving her child to be babysat by a whorish friend who watches pornos while having sex with her violently criminal boyfriend in the next room.
It reminded me of films like A SIMPLE PLAN and WINTER’S BONE (which ironically Jeff Goldsmith mentioned in his Q&A with the director afterwards). But as those were tightly constructed, A SINGLE SHOT meandered all over the place with lapses of logic as well as relatable motivations or a clear narrative.
I give it credit for being extremely atmospheric in a backwoods gothic way and the rest of the cast included great performances by Jason Isaacs, William H. Macy, Ted Levine and Jeffrey Wright. But that’s all I can recommend. The movie itself is slow and tedious with an ending that’s a bit of a head-scratcher.