After initially watching "Desert Fox," written by Alejandro Becker-Barreto and directed by Keith Schwebel, I couldn't deny this feeling of being really, really irritated.
I couldn't put a finger on it. Was it my mood? Was it simply the wrong film at the wrong time? Was it truly an issue with the film?
I couldn't figure it out.
So, to be fair, I sat down and found myself watching "Desert Fox" one more time.
It was the movie.
The weird thing is that "Desert Fox" isn't a bad film. The film centers on a sexy hitchhiker (Rebecca Cardon, "The Amazing Race") who stumbles into a good ole' hillbilly town smack dab in between two low-life hoodlums having a good go at it.
"Desert Fox" bills itself as a hilarious action-comedy, though the film works on an infinitely grander scale as a comedy largely on the strength of Cardon's natural presence, co-male lead Mark Irvingsen's relaxed performance and a nice turn by Alexa Havins ("All My Children") in a supporting role.
"Desert Fox" is beautifully photographed by Christopher Seaton, nicely capturing the desolate feeling of Palmdale, California where it was filmed. On the other hand, the film was shot in Dolby Surround Sound, creating a sound mix that, at times, almost overwhelms the film and creates much of that irritating feeling mentioned earlier. One can't help but wonder why, given the unlikelihood that "Desert Fox" will ever play in a multiplex, the production team felt like such an advanced sound mix was necessary for a low-budget, down home, simple film with a simple story. Admittedly, "Desert Fox" is just now preparing for the film festival circuit and this is just the type of issue to be worked out while touring the festival circuit.
The other major beef with "Desert Fox" is with Phil Mauskapf's original score. While there's no denying that Mauskapf is a gifted composer and this score would work in the right setting, "Desert Fox" is simply not the right film for this score. Along with the film's often overwhelming sound mix, Mauskapf's score is almost jarring in its intrusiveness even when used as a transition between scenes. A solid, complementary score accentuates a film's mood and setting. Mauskapf's score, unfortunately, too often dominates the film.
While both Havins and Cardon fare well across the board, the film's male leads, notably Irvingsen, fare better in the film's comic scenes with too many of the film's dramatic scenes dissolving into shouting matches devoid of emotional resonance or suspense. The lighter scenes, on the other hand, have a comfortable and easygoing quality about them that suggest "Desert Fox" might've been better served by emphasizing the comedy more than the action.
As a film critic who is constantly trying to be supportive and empowering of the independent filmmaker, it always pains me to come across a film that just doesn't work for me. "Desert Fox" is such a film. Despite a promising cast, often beautiful photography and successful touches of humor, "Desert Fox" never quite gels together into the film it's trying to be.