Justin Thibault, Jen Drummond, Kris Salvi, Paul Kandarian, Vac Harris
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Justin Thibault gives off all the William Foster vibes in a definite change of pace for writer/director Kris Salvi's latest short film Step Right Up, a 30-minute darkly humorous film centered around Thibault's Glen Tavern. When Tavern's coffee maker breaks, increasingly frenzied attempts at finding a replacement are met with disappointment until he finds an impossible to believe deal of a lifetime from Big Dave's Coffee Maker Emporium. Doing whatever it takes to snag his coffee maker, Tavern not only has to make it all the way over to Big Dave's but also, somehow, deal with the lunacy of the outside world.
Thibault and Salvi have collaborated before with both typically leaning into more dramatic, action-filled cinematic fare but there's something absolutely delightful about watching this story come to life. Thibault leans into the sheer craziness of Salvi's story, yet he also possesses just the right amount of edginess to leave us constantly wondering what's going to happen next. The Foster vibes, I'm talking about Michael Douglas's character from Falling Down, are all over the place here practically down to Tavern's glasses and his increasingly aggressive persona over the course of the film's 30 minutes.
While Thibault practically owns Step Right Up, Salvi's here as well as Big Dave himself. Unsurprisingly, Big Dave is a larger than life character with just the right amount of normalcy to make this all feel weirdly realistic despite how strange it gets. As Ashley, Tavern's ex, Jen Drummond is clearly having a blast and we're having a blast right along with her. The same is true for Paul Kandarian as Dad Tavern who, well, makes it pretty clear where Glen gets it all. The entire ensemble is mighty fine with Emily Tullock, Michael Lepore, and Vac Harris also turning in memorable performances.
D.P. Chris Esper's lensing is rock solid as always and Esper also edits the film with his usual precise intuition and insight.
I never know quite what to expect when a Salvi flick crosses my desk, but I always know I'm going to be entertained and full-on engaged. The same is absolutely true here with this dark, humorous, and increasingly surreal indie short. If you get a chance to check it out at an indie fest near you definitely do so.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic