I Put a Hit on You: Slamdance Review

Slamdance
A catchy concept isn't enough to sustain this feature's repetitive romantic humor.

Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart's first co-directed feature is a comedic Canadian two-hander.

Reducing the screwball rom-com to some of its most essential elements, filmmakers Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart hit on an engaging premise, but don't achieve a sufficiently antic level of humor to fulfill the film’s early promise.

Loyalists will surely support this proudly Canadian feature nonetheless, which could lead to limited domestic theatrical play. Harper (Sara Canning) isn't exactly hitting on all cylinders after a major tiff with her boyfriend Ray (Aaron Ashmore), followed by his rejection of her ill-timed marriage proposal, complete with the engagement ring she wants him to put on her finger.

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Heavy drinking ensues, but Harper's decision to troll the web and find a Craigslist volunteer willing to take out Ray in exchange for the aforementioned ring far exceeds acceptable excuses of drunken bad behavior. Once she regains her grip, Harper realizes she cares far more for Ray than she expected, particularly since she may have now put him in mortal danger. For his part, Ray seems disinclined to believe her repentant ravings, until he grasps just how vaguely Harper actually understands the way Internet communication functions.

Now they've got to either find a way to call off the would-be assassin or somehow outsmart him and escape Ray's apartment, where they’ll likely be trapped if they’re tracked down. Termed a "romantic comedic thriller," the film's genre reference gets the first two terms right, but overall there's not much tension in this would-be thriller, even for a game attempt at a low-budget riff on Mr. & Mrs. Smith-like situations.

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Eventually the humor becomes overly repetitive, stretching for high concept but coming up short. Even Clark and Stewart's tight script can't find enough to do with the actors, as the film's brief runtime begins showing wear midway through. Partly it's due to the unlikely characterization of Harper as practically Internet-ignorant -- not so plausible for a contemporary late-20s career woman. The idea that she could "accidentally" put a hit on Ray and not understand the implications of online communication strains credibility.

Cloaking the hitman in anonymity is another miscalculation – without a clear threat, much of the urgency dissipates. The script's shortcomings fortunately don't put undue limitations on the actors, who remain enticing through much of the film. Canning plays the linchpin, her outrageous (if implausible) behavior providing the impetus for the couple's inconsistent chemistry. Ashmore at first appears sympathetic as her frazzled boyfriend, until revelations about his personal history tip the power balance back to neutral. Working within some obvious resource constraints, Stewart and Clark keep the film looking nicely polished, sustained by James Klopko's lucent cinematography.

Venue: Slamdance Film Festival, Narrative Features Competition

Cast: Aaron Ashmore, Sara Canning, Heather Sande, Jon Llyr

Directors/screenwriters: Dane Clark, Linsey Stewart

Producers: Jordan Gross, Mike Macmillan

Executive producers: Mike Macmillan, Jordan Gross, Dane Clark, Linsey Stewart, Chris Cordell, Ryan Goldhar, Jim Kosmenko, Aaron Ashmore, Sara Canning

Director of photography: James Klopko

Production Designer: Jennifer Marie Thomas

Costume Designer: Sarah May

Music: Paul Aucoin

Editor: Jonathan Eagan

Sales: Lithium Studios Productions

No rating, 78 minutes

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