have I seen a film so accurately, if accidentally, named as Crawl.
Paul China's film does just that as it slowly works its way through
a thin storyline to reach a pointless conclusion. While pointless
padding seems to the curse of modern cinema, for an 80 minute
movie to be so heavily stretched out is remarkable.
The sad thing is that the film has a lot of potential. It opens
well, with a mysterious Croatian hit man (George Shevtsov) shooting
a garage owner in the head. Shevtsov is cast against type –
he looks like he should be playing a kindly uncle, not a ruthless,
coked up killer and the film evokes a real sense of style. But
it all rapidly starts to fall apart. We're introduced to barmaid
Marilyn Burns (Georgina Haig) – and yeah, that is a blatant
Texas Chain Saw reference – who is eagerly awaiting the
arrival home of boyfriend Travis, who she is convinced will be
proposing. But through a series of frankly unconvincing coincidences,
Travis is hit by the Croatian's car on the way home, and the injured
killer decides to take refuge in the nearest house, which just
happens to where Marilyn lives.
China clearly wants to be the Coen Brothers so badly that it hurts,
and so while Crawl has a real sense of style
about it, it's a style lifted directly from Blood Simple.
But that film is great not only because it looks good but because
it reinvents film noir and shows how the best-laid plans can quickly
go disastrously wrong. The characters in Blood Simple
are strung up by their own over-reaching ambition, but in this
film, they just seem dumb. Here, we have a woman who is expecting
two people to call on her, and yet reacts to a knock on the door
with immediate fear, for example. It might be good for raising
tension if it made contextual sense, but it doesn't and so the
viewer is immediately irritated by her skittishness. Supporting
characters are introduced as if they will play some significant
part in the proceedings and then simply written off and forgotten
about (Paul Holmes as the sleazy bar boss who hired the hitman
to begin with is built up as important and then rather pointlessly
disposed of) and the music sounds like Bernard Hermann if Bernard
Hermann was terrible. Seriously – I began to wonder if the
clichéd score, which probably would've been rejected as
hackneyed in the 1950s, was included as some sort of joke.
But the real problem with Crawl is the pacing.
I'll be kind and assume that the long, excessively drawn out scenes
of people looking around a room, staring at doorknobs etc are
failed attempts to rack up the tension rather than a cynical way
of stretching the film to feature length, but either way, they
don't work. In the end, Crawl feels like a potentially
very good 30 minute film that has been slowed down to reach feature
length. And that is not a good thing.
Crawl should be exciting. It isn't.
It should be tense. It isn't. And that's irritating,
because when you can see what this film could have been,
its failures seem even larger. In the end, Crawl
commits the one crime that a thriller can never commit
– it's boring.
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