Having just viewed a tremendously well done action thriller from writer/director Richmond Riedel called Target Practice,
it was with great anticipation that I found myself slipping in the DVD of writer/director Dorian Dardar's ultra-indie Just Another Noir.
Just Another Noir
tells the story of Erin Smith (Aspen Steib), whose brother has disappeared from the city known as the Big Easy. Erin heads to the city determined to find him, but instead butting heads with an unsympathetic and impotent police department. She recruits a hack detective and kung fu hustler named Dorian (Dorian Dardar) to help her cause, but after Dorian discovers that her brother was hanging out with a drug-dealing stripper he's encouraged to abandon his search.
If you know what I mean.
Erin, though, isn't one to easily abandon her brother and Dorian finds himself increasingly drawn into her cause and coming face-to-face with the truth about his city and himself.
The strength of Just Another Noir
lies in its non-hyped, non-polished and relentlessly realistic script penned by Dardar that builds flawed yet believable characters and a cohesive storyline that holds together despite the inherent challenges of filming on a micro-budget. Dardar, who has acknowledged financing the film himself, may not have all the bells and whistles for his film but he does have a compelling story and a couple of really fine performances (including his own).
The real gem of the film is relative newcomer Aspen Steib as Erin, giving a multi-layered and richly human performance that avoids crime thriller stereotypes and instead serves up both warmth and intrigue. One of the greatest things about an ultra-indie film is that it's sort of like parachuting ... ultimately, you just have to plan the best you can, surrender and hope for the best. When an actor is in an ultra-indie picture, the performance is about the actor. There aren't a lot of re-shoots, digital enhancements, excessive editing or cosmetic makeovers. It's the actor, the character and the camera. It's this simplicity that makes an ultra-indie a difficult view for some folks while others, this critic included, actually prefer it to the over-stylized and faux polished Hollywood production. It's in this setting that Steib most excels, offering a performance that exudes honesty and authenticity that too often Hollywood strips away.
This is not to say that everyone else in Just Another Noir
pales in comparison to Steib, with Dardar himself complementing her performance quite nicely and embodying Dorian as a complex man whose layers are slowly peeled away over the course of the film. There are some hit-and-miss performances in Just Another Noir,
almost an inevitability in an ultra-indie, though the entire cast seems to attain a consistent vibe that makes the film feel cohesive even when the production values occasionally flag a bit.
Just Another Noir
is currently available as a DVD and for Instant Viewing on Amazon, while the film is also having its premiere screening at Nicholls State University on November 11, 2011 and has been accepted into the Indie Film Fest Competition. For more information on the film, visit the Just Another Noir website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic