11:14, an obscure gem of a movie (review)

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11.14, movie
11.14: Hilary Swank in the multi-viewpoint movie

This is one of those films you probably haven’t heard of, that remains obscure despite its big name cast (Hilary Swank and Patrick Swayze), and that is actually quite good. I watched it with the thought in my head that it’s a damn shame this wasn’t caught up by more people. It is an original and darkly funny little gem, mining the vein opened by Tarantino in intertwining stories and off the wall characters, and it overcomes its flaws with boldness.

The plot goes a little like this: as drunk driver Jack (Henry Thomas) is in his car at 11:14, a dead body falls on his car. He mistakenly thinks he’s hit someone, and as a woman (Barbara Hershey) passes, he tells her he’s hit a deer. She calls the police, leading to his arrest after a tense and effective sequence in which you think he’s got away, only to be taken at the last minute. Jack runs off, before meeting the woman again in the woods, looking for her husband. He gets arrested. The film then goes back to explain who the woman is, and what the body was doing, and where the husband is, and more. It requires thought to piece it together, but this is one of the things I liked about it; it isn’t content with providing a beginning-middle-end structure. It wants to linger with you.

The way this story is told would be nothing without good narrative hooks, and thank god for the quirky characters, dark undertones, and violent edge. It is much to the credit of the writer/director Greg Marcks that everyone here has their own voice, and motivations, and the joy of this film is watching them bounce off each other. Each member of the cast is unique, and comes off as a real person in the film, something I greatly enjoyed. Hilary Swank in particular is excellent, and I guarantee you that one of her scenes with a gun will linger in your mind for a long while after you’ve watched it. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

Aside from the screenplay and acting, most of the other aspects are serviceable and unobtrusive – the score is quiet yet effective, a looping punctuation for the events onscreen. The cinematography is grounded in dark muted colours, to reflect the noir undertones, and the angles are neither film-school poor or dizzying: they simply serve to accentuate the better aspects of this film. On the whole, it works very well.

It’s not without its flaws, of course, namely the fact that the idea of the events of this film happening within the time frame we are told (20 minutes, more or less) stagger belief. It belies the overall cleverness of the script, which aside from this, interlocks very well. A revision or two would have helped clear this up, but I seem to be the only person to have noticed anyway, so maybe this is just nit-picking.

All in all this is a surprisingly effective thriller. It’s not going to change the world, but it’s certainly one of the better Tarantino-inspired pieces there’s been, as well as being original enough to pass as its own. If you ever see it lurking in the depths of a dvd shop, I urge you to snap it up. A solid and respectable effort.