Exit 727 (2012)
A low budget...in this case micro-budget...independent crime caper effort, supposedly based on a true tale. The main avenue of exposure and distribution seems to have been through the DVD/VOD route.
Things are not exactly going swimmingly for Michael (Jereme Badger), battling drug addiction, or his friend Ben (Anthony Ashmore), going through, amongst other issues, family guilt trips over his lifestyle. The duo head off to Florida to catch up to Michael's bro Dominic (Eric Ortiz, who also wrote and directed this production). A crappy construction job predictably does not work out but a rather high strung fellow worker helps to get the ball rolling on an idea towards a more prosperous path - staging a bank heist. The other three feel their plight is desperate enough to take the chance but only under their own planning. The idea develops to the point where the caper becomes a kidnapping, leading to an explosive conclusion.
One has to commend Ortiz and his colleagues for not aiming low with the limited means they had. Exit 727 is an earnest attempt at putting out a serious piece of work and far from the exploitation offering others may have tried in order to "break in". It's no big surprise that the micro-budget doesn't allow for some executions that would have helped develop the movie but there are other shortcomings that hinder the film regardless.
While the last half hour actually packs some emotional wallop, the problem is the viewer has to sit through the first 30 minutes or so, which features some uneven acting, tinny sound recording and underdeveloped connections. The characters go around telling us what problems they have or which people they can't get along with, rather than truly taking the viewer through their experiences. Clearly it's a script in need of a few more drafts. The mostly hand-held videotography is sometimes interrupted by multiple split-screens that look like they belong in another film. The result is a visual signature that at times resembles Ira Sach's film The Delta, with a street version of Michael Figgis' Hotel trying to sneak in. The oil and vinegar of realism and flash do not meld convincingly here.
Exit 727 is far from being a terrible film. The pacing is okay and, at just over an hour in running time, it doesn't try to overstay a welcome. And Badger's performance as the well meaning junkie gives the film a heart and soul it needs. At times he bears a passing resemblance in appearance and style to Mark Wahlberg and is the cast member I would keep an eye on.
Exit 727 may not be the most noteworthy feature debut but Ortiz, as a filmmaker, shouldn't be discouraged from going back for more after learning from this first effort. Still...
I say this film tastes - HALF-BAKED.