Written by Gurmeet Kapoor
What to Expect
Having watched the trailer of Pocket Listing, it was tough to fathom if the film was an innovative idea or just another mediocre direct-to-DVD styled attempt hitting the screens by luck. Going solely by the way it’s packaged, the audience can’t really judge, unfortunately – it being a hotchpotch of a bit too much (Action thriller? Black comedy? It’s difficult to point that out.)
Furthermore, it’s tough to expect so much from a film that portrays almost five short of a hundred percent of its characters as snobbish and stuck up. Of course, movies that can pull that off through deft writing and direction end up damn exciting; you’re almost looking for clues on which side to pick. Yet, with this particular flick, you obviously know whose side you’re on. It’s a pity, then, that you can’t expect much from a film filled with premise.
What’s it About?
So here we have Jack Woodman (James Jurdi, also writer), a property broker for a famous company headed by Ron Glass ( Burt Reynolds). Glass’ son, Aaron (Logan Cahey) double-crosses Jack in an ambiguously explained deal. Jack, who was now living the life of Los Angeles, is abruptly confined to the slums of the city with a teenager and his grandmother-who seem to have a (yet again, ambiguously explained) connection with Jack from the past.
Several months of squalor later, Jack gets an offer from Frank Hunter (Rob Lowe; Parks and Recreation) and his wife Lana (Jessica Clark) to sell their Malibu beach-house villa very, very discreetly.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Let’s begin with the story. If one were to only judge the synopsis, not looking at anything else related to the film, it could possibly be deduced that the film, if made well, could do wonders. When one comes to watching it though, it just ends up so overdone; there is neither nuance nor originality when it comes to the plot.
The film does indulge in some rather enjoyable dark humor oftentimes. Unfortunately, the lazy direction and treatment of the film lets it down very heavily. It would also have helped had director Conor Allyn toned down on the preachiness; thereby giving any possible social message some subtlety and grace.
An appropriate way to describe how Pocket Listing feels is “all flash, no feeling”. The “feeling” in this film – emotion, to be specific – looks utterly gratuitous and contrived in its deliberate attempt to make the story humanely connectible for the sake of it. It doesn’t serve any purpose to the story as a whole, and with that, ends up lacking both depth and grace. There is, for example, only one real scene where the viewers get to know more of Jurdi’s Woodman as a person. Additionally, there is a whole thread of Woodman’s relationship with the people he lives with in the slums that is completely unexplored. One can’t just randomly have Woodman live in the slums and form a close bond with people without the audience really knowing what was going on in the first place – especially in a film of this type.
The cinematography is fair. It does what it has to, showing all the eye-popping visuals to the audience. The editing, on the surface, is satisfactory-to-average, but could have been used as a stronger weapon, thereby helping the film salvage at least something. Unfortunately, this turns out not to be the case.
To Perform or Not to Perform?
One must wonder if the actors were instructed to act the way they poorly did, because the cast does boast of some fair names like Rob Lowe (of The Outsiders fame) and Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit). Having a cast like this, it’s imperative that the performances be strong; the acting prowess of these two was naturally expected to rub off on the rest.
Certain actors in this film – specifically Jessica Clarke – don’t seem to give a single damn about the quality of their performances. Rob Lowe does seem to play his part fairly well as he instills fear into the audiences’ minds to an extent. Logan Cahey in a short role is largely irritating as the villainous, spoilt-brat of a son.
James Jurdi, however, is in fact a really promising actor – and it shows. There are moments when he gets to put forth his performative skills as he, in several portions of the film, shows nuance and emotion. On the flip side – blame it on Allyn or Jurdi – his over-the-top, cocky attitude irritates for most part and this so unfortunately overshadows those fine moments. He could almost pull off a poor man’s Harvey Specter (played by Gabriel Macht in the popular television series Suits).
Others range from satisfactory to annoying over different levels.
Writing this film may definitely have been an enjoyable ride, but on-screen, it’s tough to notice anything but mediocrity. Give this a skip, unless you’re watching a movie to educate yourself on how possibly not to make one.
Star Rating: 1 / 5