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The Independent Critic

Nick Renaud, Henry Monfries, Rene Cadet, Alastair Ferrie, Hannah Kasulka
Yiuwing Lam
NR (Equiv. to "R")
82 Mins.

 "Prank" Review 
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Connor (Nick Renaud), Jordan (Henry Monfries) and Chunk (Gemmenne de la Pena) are three long-bullied friends who decide to take revenge on their tormentor during the summer before their senior year. They hatch an elaborate plan to execute the perfect plan of revenge on Dax (Alastair Ferrie) while filming the entire thing.

Unfortunately, nothing gets executed quite as planned.

A tale of bullying, revenge and a prank gone horribly wrong, Prank is such a mesmerizing and unforgettable film that you damn near forget it's a low-budget indie and the first full-length feature film from writer/director Yiuwing Lam. Lam, a recipient of the 2003 ABC Television New Talent Development Award, has crafted a thought-provoking and jarring film that goes directions you don't expect and has the balls to say things that you don't expect it to say in telling its darkly humorous yet disturbing story.

If punk rock were a genre of filmmaking, Prank would exist comfortably inside it with its in your face dialogue, artistic boldness and refusal to compromise or water down its message. Even when you're not exactly sure where Lam is going with Prank, your eyes are glued to the screen wanting to find out.

In the wrong hands, directorial or performance, Prank could easily have come off as either too self-righteous or way too demented. To the credit of Lam and an exceptional cast, Prank instead plays out as the stark human drama that it's meant to be.

Nick Renaud and Henry Monfries are simply stellar as our leading duo of Connor and Jordan, respectively. Nick Renaud is absolutely mesmerizing as Connor, a bespectacled young Star Trek geek whose years of being tormented by bullies Dax and Omar (Rene Cadet) have taken an obvious toll on his psyche' and his self-esteem. Renaud is all over the place as Connor, from heartbreaking vulnerability to near psychosis and back again. Renaud's seemingly constant transformation as Connor simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. In a just world. Renaud would be knocking on the door of The Independent Spirit Awards next year.

Yes, he's really that good.

Monfries is quite strong, as well, building up Jordan as either someone who has been pushed way over the edge or someone who has far more layers than it really seems. Monfries is so convincing that he keeps you guessing, and it's his character's ongoing evolution that leaves you constantly wondering exactly what's going on here.

Rene Cadet and Alastair Ferrie are top notch as the film's resident bad guys, however, they do a nice job of never crossing the line into caricature. Cadet's Omar and Ferrie's Dax come off as genuine bullies precisely because they feel so incredibly real and may very well bring to mind someone you remember from your own high school days. The cast is rounded out quite nicely by Hannah Kasulka and Gemmenne de la Pena.

For a first-time feature filmmaker, Lam does have three short films to his credit, it's pretty amazing how much Yiuwing Lam does right here. D.P. Jeremy Lundborg's camera work is terrific even in low light situations, while Adam Brown contributes the perfect musical accompaniment to the film's varying moods. It's rare to be so impressed by an indie production's overall technical features, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Pam Chien's excellent production design and the character enhancing costume design of Jennifer Garnet Filo.

Prank is actually in the midst this very moment of a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the final funds needed to close out post-production, enhance the website and set up an exclusive one-night screening in an effort to improve the film's chances of attracting a distribution deal.

Distributors? Are you listening?

GET THIS FILM. You won't regret it.

Prank should have no problem finding a solid life on the indie film festival circuit, especially given the timeliness of its anti-bullying message and its incredibly indie vibe.  For more information on Prank, visit the film's website and/or Facebook page.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic

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