Running Time

The H-Bomb: Career criminal Carl (Bruce Campbell) has just finished a five year stretch in the pen, and immediately upon release he goes to work on his next heist; robbing the cash that the Warden has been illegally making from the prison laundry. He enlists the help of his life long friend Patrick (Jeremy Roberts), who turns out to be much more of a liability than an asset, and watches in dismay as his perfectly planned robbery falls apart before his eyes.

While this may all sound like a typical crime caper, there actually is a twist that sets this obscure-but-worthwhile indie apart; the entire film unfolds in real time, in one single take… or, at least, what appears to be one single take. This device is taken from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope”, except with two key variations. “Running Time” actually takes place in several locations, as opposed to one single room, like in “Rope”. Also, in “Rope”, the whole single take/real time element was little more than an artsy directorial gimmick, whereas in “Running Time”, writer/director Josh Becker actually incorporates a ticking clock element, thus making the time that passes a crucial part of the story. Carl and his cohorts only have a certain amount of time to get to the office where the money is being held, crack the safe, and leave with the loot before the Warden and his armed guards come to collect it.

This is the classic heist-gone-wrong kind of picture in the vain of John Huston’s “The Asphalt Jungle” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing”. But by making it seem like the whole scenario is happening before our eyes with the illusion of a single, unending take, Becker and Co. add a whole other level of suspense to it all. By playing out this way, it gains a sort of documentary feel, making it all the more realistic.

Of course, the film is not really shot entirely in one take. There are a number of “invisible cuts” throughout the film, and sadly, not all are as invisible as the director seems to think they are. In fact, to me, it was pretty obvious where some of the cuts were hidden… but, to be fair, being a filmmaker myself, I know where to look for such things (which I won’t tell you). Perhaps if I were an Average Joe moviegoer, I would have been more easily fooled into believing in the single take approach…. but, this is a minor quibble.

The acting is very strong across the board, with Bruce Campbell making a very impressive lead as Carl. Most people know Campbell from campier fair like the “Evil Dead” films and “Bubba Ho-Tep”, as well as the beer guzzling sidekick in the current TV hit “Burn Notice”, but here he plays a on full dramatic lead and plays it well. Watching him in this film makes me realize that he is the leading man that Hollywood missed out on, which is unfortunate.

In fact, Hollywood missed out on this whole film, which is really unfortunate because it is really good. It’s taut, suspenseful, original, and even fairly unpredictable. The filmmakers and cast set out to make an entertaining and stylish film, and they succeeded admirably. The fact that they made the film on an ultra low budget in only ten days makes it even all the more admirable. It’s a hard film to come by, and it really is a shame it didn’t get a wider release, but if you do come across a copy, it is definitely worth the purchase, as it is inventive film-making combined with solid story telling at its best.

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