In the Blink of an Eye (2005) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but definitely would be R for strong language, violence, nudity, and drug use
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Jaime P. Gomez, Brian Krause, Yuri Lowenthal, Ula Gomez, Tony Boldi, Devin Reeve, Ky Evans, Zoska Aleece, Tony Genaro, Vanessa Lauren, Tara Platt, Symba Smith, Mark L. Walberg, Kristin Mintor
Director: Jaime P. Gomez
Screenplay: Jaime P. Gomez
Sometimes it isn't fun to be a film reviewer, especially when reviewing a very small independent film that represents a labor of love for the filmmaker. I had occasion to attend a screening of actor Jaime P. Gomez's (Gabriela, Crimson Tide) feature film, In the Blink of an Eye, which happens to be the first film he's written, directed, and produced, and in which he also stars in the lead role. Some might also call it a labor of love; others might call it a vanity project. As for me, the one thing I can't call it is a good movie.
As much as I wish I could bestow Gomez, a likeable actor in many respects, with a good rating, I risk my credibility with readers by not calling films as I honestly see them, and from what I saw, this was an unfocused, amateurish effort marred by an unpleasant story, unsavory characters, and an underdeveloped script. It's an unenviable position to say hurtful things to someone who obviously cares a great deal about this project, but my only loyalty is to my readers, who (hopefully) value my honesty. So, this is why, to paraphrase a line from the movie (ironically, originally called Pissed), I will reluctantly end up pissing on Gomez's film, and even when he begs, I will piss some more, and the only thing he can do about it is get wet.
Gomez stars as a recently-released ex-con named Trace, whose primary goal now that he's sprung is to look after the wellbeing of his young daughter, Ally (played nicely by Gomez's real-life daughter, Ula). As much as he'd like to go straight, Trace needs the funds to make sure her needs are met, which is why he find the allure of entering the life he left behind too irresistible, and as despicable as he now views them, he must once again rub shoulders with the very same bad people that led him down the wrong path to begin with.
In the Blink of an Eye started off in its original conception as a short film, but somewhere during the filmmaking process, it was beefed up to a traditional full-length feature. That's a bit of a shame, as the best moments of the film come during the end montage, where we learn the moral of the story about how life and death decisions are literally made "in the blink of an eye". Unfortunately, this sentiment, interesting though it may be, is nearly completely lost amid the filler that is the rest of the movie. Scene after scene goes by of Trace facing the enticing decadence of life in the underbelly of the city's streets, trying to keep his sanity, while all the while, it steals his soul.
Unfortunately, this last paragraph makes the film sound more interesting than it actually plays out. The first knock, among many, for this zero-dollar film is that Gomez's vision vastly exceeds his ability to support it financially. Like many low-budget films, the inability to have quality in the sight and sounds it almost a given, and while it is impressive that he was able to get his film made completely with such limited resources (under $200,000), those dollars appear to have been stretched very thin. Digital cam textures, sloppy processing, and dubious location shots mar the look of the film -- perhaps intentional, perhaps not, but the fact that these technical issues are evident throughout makes it difficult for viewers to truly get into the film as a story.
While the filmmakers truly believe in the integrity of these characters, and it I'm sure they understand the intent of their story through and through, unfortunately, this doesn't comes across so well for the average-Joe viewers like myself, who try diligently to find an adequate foothold within the narrative to stick with it, to no avail. Starting with the noir-ish voice-overs, In the Blink of an Eye hearkens back to older, classic Hollywood films, looking like it had the potential, at least on a conceptual level, of being something that might look cheap but has a great story within it. In this vein, it might have resulted in another Brick, but instead, it ends up dropping like one.
Sadly, it's just another story of a con trying to make good, like many hard-boiled gangster opuses from Hollywood's yesteryear, with a message to be learned, as Michael Corleone says in Godfather III, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." As much as independent filmmakers like to tout their stories as not being told by mainstream Hollywood by and large, in the case of In the Blink of an Eye, they've been told, just not as often as in the past, mostly because they have been done to death to the point where any more attempts at the genre come off as redundant.
Truthfully, pissing on someone else's pet project gives me no satisfaction, and my first inclination is to just shut my trap and let the creators keep believing in the merits of their vision and artistry. Actually, nothing I can do will take away from believing what they'd like to believe, as I am only one person, whose opinions certainly don't mean as much as the family, friends and industry people who all offer up much-needed words of encouragement to continue to pursue their dreams. If I might offer up a bit of solace after what will probably be seen as a very negative review, I do wish for the film to be successful and profitable for all involved, showing that independent films can thrive and survive utilizing whatever marketing tools they can afford on the net, allowing voices to be heard outside the Hollywood system. Alas, in all truth, I found the film itself to be nearly incomprehensible, lacking direction, authenticity, and that spark of originality that is absolutely vital to allow such a tiny independent film to be heard in an expansive sea of thousands upon thousands of film projects, big budget as well as smaller endeavors, each with their own backers who firmly believe in their creations 110%.
To independent filmmakers, their films are like their own children -- they put all of their time, energy, focus and money in making sure they are nurtured from embryonic conception, developing them lovingly on the path to maturity until they can finally release them to the world to have a life of their own. In an ultimate irony, art imitates life, as this film ends up being about one ex-con (in the pen for five years, which is, coincidentally, the amount of time Gomez spent confined to "Nash Bridges", not being free to call his own shots as a creator) and his potentially disastrous excursion into self-sacrificing everything in order to secure enough money in Hollywood to see his child succeed. Unfortunately, the film's moral, that some sacrifices are just not worth it in the end, wasn't taken to heart in the development stages.
No, I don't think they would take kindly to hearing that this "child" they've put all their energy and focus into making a reality ended up being a complete waste of their money and time. No, I don't think they will take kindly to hearing that it was also a complete waste of mine.
©2006 Vince Leo