C.J. Mason (Matt Kaminsky) is a nice guy...maybe too nice.
Boats have been in C.J.'s family for generations, and he's the owner of Mason Marine, a used boat shop with three very unmotivated salesmen including Frank (Floyd Van Buskirk), Steve (Jeffry Stein) and newbie Kyle (Graham Norris).
C.J. longs to give his growing family a better home, and after enduring yet another episode of harassment by his wife's father, C.J. encounters slick real estate agent Johnny Cross (Mel Fair) and his entire world is rapidly turned upside down.
First, C.J. gets himself wrapped up in a house deal that seems too good to be true and ends up being just that. Then, unexpectedly, Johnny shows up on his doorstep and offers to help C.J. turn around his business. While Johnny's methods are unorthodox, the results speak for themselves and Mason Marine's sales explode.
Directed by Oliver Robins ("Roomies"), "Man Overboard" is the perfect example of a well made, entertaining independent film.
At first glance, "Man Overboard" gives off the vibe of one of those lightweight, low-budget comedies that seems to fly in and out of theatres every month or so.
True, "Man Overboard" IS a low-budget, independent film made for an estimated $250,000.
In the hands of director Oliver Robins ("Roomies") and a terrific ensemble cast, "Man Overboard" transcends its apparent limitations and turns into an entertaining and, on occasion, even moving film about one man who learns what's important and one man who never really does.
Under ordinary circumstances, a film such as "Man Overboard" doesn't actually require much in the way of acting. After all, it's a light comedy. If one out of every two comic bits works, the film's a success.
Fortunately, Robins sets his standards higher and his cast is up to the task.
Kaminsky, who has an extensive acting background on television and in video games, completely gains our sympathy as C.J., a good guy who gets sucked into the rat race and then has to figure out a way of the mess he's created.
As Johnny Cross, con man extraordinaire, Mel Fair ("Halloween 2007") is slick, seductive and darkly comical. Fair wisely avoids caricature, grounding Cross in just enough reality that you laugh along with his antics until you realize just how cruel he's getting.
Floyd Van Buskirk ("Balls of Fury"), Jeffry Stein ("Reunion") and Graham Norris ("The Jane Austen Book Club") all shine as C.J.'s increasingly put upon employees.
Considering the film's modest budget, the tech work in "Man Overboard" is quite solid including Jesse Brunt's camera work and the original music from Kevin McDaniels ("The Guiding Light").
While $250,000 is a nice chunk of change and certainly a far cry above many of the indie flicks reviewed here on The Independent Critic, it's also a far cry from the multi-million dollar budgets found in most of our multi-plexes. While it's unlikely that "Man Overboard" will be competing in any of the end of year awards battles, it's a solid example of an independent filmmaker putting together a solid, entertaining effort on a modest budget and provides a solid example to other filmmakers that working on a low budget doesn't have to mean compromising quality.
Behind a strong artistic vision from director Oliver Robins, a nice script from Nathan Ives and Ashley Scott Meyers and a strong ensemble cast, "Man Overboard" is a film to look for if it plays at a festival near you or when it arrives on DVD!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic