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Quentin Tarantino continues to have an enormous influence on rising filmmakers. The latest Pulp Fiction wannabe is a blood-soaked, time-twisting anthology, The Power of Few, written and directed by Leone Marucci.
The picture, which opens regionally this week before a wider opening a week later, can’t be said to break any new ground in the gritty, mean-streets genre. But it has a better-than-average cast and a few clever plot twists, and it ends up being an occasionally amusing time-killer. While immediate box-office prospects seem dim, it might generate some decent Netflix business.
The film is set in New Orleans and introduces five sets of characters and five story-lines all taking place at the same time. A teenage boy (Devin Gearhart) tries to get medicine for a baby brother. A delivery girl (Q’Orianka Kilcher) meets a fugitive (Jesse Bradford), and they find time for a budding romance while he flees his pursuers. A mysterious couple (Christian Slater and Nicky Whelan) who might be cops are searching the neighborhood. In the weirdest of the stories, a loquacious street-person (Christopher Walken, who else?) trades nuggets of wisdom with a dwarf. And then there’s the young black woman (Tione Johnson), whose nickname is Few, wandering the streets and watching over all the others.
While we’re following one story, characters from another story turn up in the background. Then the focus shifts to another narrative, and the first set of characters are reduced to bit-players in this tale. It’s a technique that Tarantino used brilliantly in Pulp Fiction, but the novelty is gone.
That means the film depends very much on the quality of the individual stories, and most of them are a bit too thin to engage us fully. But the performers salvage some of their scenes. Bradford and Kilcher are so attractive and energetic that we’re rooting for them to survive. Slater and Whelan also generate some sparks, though their tale is too murky to captivate us. With his flowing gray locks, Walken has one of his typically freaky roles, which is something of a disappointment after his more subtle work in A Late Quartet and Stand-Up Guys, but he’s always fun to watch.
And newcomer Johnson brings a measure of soul to her key role. Most of the stories end with violent cataclysms, but Johnson’s Few has a message for the people she encounters: “Cause no more pain.” And when she persuades a couple of thugs to follow her credo, we are given an alternative, more hopeful ending for each of the scenarios that we’ve watched. This gimmick has been used in other movies, but it works effectively here.
While the explosions and shootouts are vigorously filmed, some of the quieter moments die on the screen. Marucci doesn’t always make the most of the New Orleans locations. Although this film is derivative, at least it chooses good models to copy. The ride is bumpy, but the end of the journey turns out to be fairly satisfying.
Opens: Friday, Feb. 15 (Steelyard Pictures)
Cast: Christopher Walken, Christian Slater, Jesse Bradford, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Anthony Anderson, Nicky Whelan, Moon Bloodgood, Juvenile, Tione Johnson, Devin Gearhart
Director-screenwriter: Leone Marucci
Producers: Jimmy Holcomb, Roy Scott Macfarland, Jay Thames, Fred D’Amico, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Leone Marucci
Executive producers: Will French, Stephen Roberts, Roy Kurtluyan, Whitney Kroenke, Todd Trosclair
Director of photography: Reinhart Peschke
Production designer: Ren Blanco
Music: Mike Simpson
Costume designer: Jillian Kreiner
Editor: Jonathan Walls
R rating, 95 minutes
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