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The Independent Critic

Art Hall, Joseph Callari Vince Eustace, Kelly Christopher Jayson Gladstone, Charlz Williams, Kendra M. Hill
Mike Barroga


 "Give & Take" Ready for Festival Circuit 
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In Mike Barroga's nearly 20-minute short film Give & Take, Art Hall plays an enigmatic man who lures seemingly unconnected people to a smoky, seemingly secluded bar where he offers them the chance for either salvation or ruin. As each individual, all from different walks of life, makes their choice, they unwittingly become pawns in his larger insidious plan.

In the opening seconds of Give & Take, it becomes quite clear that there's something sinister going on as our mysterious man seemingly chooses men and women with a backstory, a need, or some sort of unquenchable thirst that makes them more vulnerable to everything else that's going unfold over the course of the film's twenty minutes. Unfortunately, that's part of what mutes the impact that Give & Take ultimately has on the audience. While exactly what is to unfold may not be immediately obvious, there's not a single moment of compelling buy-in where these characters feel like anything more than a set-up for something far more serious.

This isn't necessarily the fault of the performers, who are for the most part quite strong and convincing. This is especially true of Art Hall, whose enigmatic man comes off as sort of an off-kilter weaving together of game show host, multi-level marketer and outright psycho. It's a fun and compelling combination that kept me watching even when other cinematic elements didn't quite gel.

It didn't help, I suppose, that Kevin MacLeod's otherwise fine music, kept reminding me of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

I swear, I'm not high.

While it may sound like I'm being a tad snarky with Give & Take, and I probably am, the film will likely play more successfully for someone who doesn't review more films in a year than most people will see in a lifetime. Erik Urtz's lensing is dark, intimate, and jarring and Barroga's script does a slower simmer that builds the tension and patiently makes you wait to find out how this is all going to unfold.

Give & Take is a slow-building thriller with a bit of a retro vibe that makes you pay attention until the very end and toys with your emotions along the way. Behind a strong performance from lead Art Hall, Give & Take should find a home on the indie/underground fest circuit and it'll be interesting to see what Barroga creates next.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic