Joint Body: Film Review

Joint Body Mark Pellegrino - H 2011
40/West Productions

Joint Body Mark Pellegrino - H 2011

Contemporary on-the-lam thriller weighted down by bulky, back-story baggage.

Despite strong acting, this gritty noir film is weighed down by bulky, back-story baggage.



CHICAGO -  There’s a lot going on in Joint Body, which could be re-titled Back Story, since much of the drama concerns the past of the downward lives of an ex-con and exotic dancer.

Shot in a gritty noir style, Joint Body shows most signs of life in its aesthetics. However, as a box-office or cable prospect its pulse is weak. Still, the film’s sultry synopsis may entice video-on-demand viewers who will likely come to regret their rental decision.

A middle-aged parolee, Nick (Mark Pellegrino), meets up with an exotic dancer, Michelle (Alicia Witt), at a one-night-stay motel, where he has holed up on parole. Actually, he’s headed straight: He’s scored a machinist’s job, but trouble has a way of finding this guy. And, especially in noir and sometimes in real life, it comes in the shapely form of a femme fatale, namely the bad-girl down the hall.   

Under the universal truism of “no good deed goes unpunished,” Nick is arrested after he comes to her defense while she’s being raped. With no real motive or discovered weapon, he’s released. Nevertheless, his heroism is not only questioned, it’s also resented:  The stripper’s low self-esteem and susceptibility to abusive relationships mess his head.

Nick’s problems go back to his family and his relationship with his “good” brother, who has, not surprisingly, become a cop. Indeed, there’s some shrewd dark irony packed into filmmaker Brian Jun’s noir knock-off, especially in its moral squint, but the overall story goes nowhere. Admittedly, an entertaining two-on-the-lam adventure may have been precluded because of budgetary constraints, but the narrative consistently wallows in backstory, and we soon lose interest in both the characters and their sorry courses.

The acting, however, is dead-on right: Pellegrino maintains a sullen glower throughout, while dosing out hints of his character’s inner decencies. As the brittle dancer, Alicia Witt’s performance, bolstered by credible mood swings, reveals a vulnerable and damaged beauty whose loser-life is bottoming out. Despite the strong performances, the story meanders nowhere and ultimately slogs to its predictable, dour ending. 

Aesthetically, Joint Body has life: Chicago-area filmmaker Brian Jun forges a harsh noir-look, greatly abetted by the gritty lensing of cinematographer Ryam Samul (cq).


section: Main Competition

Bottom line:  Contemporary on-the-lam thriller weighted down by bulky, back-story baggage.

Production company: 40/West

Cast: Mark Pellegrino, Alicia Witt, Tom Guiry, Bellamy Young, Ryan O’Nan, Robert Nolan Clark, Matthew Linhardt

Screenwriter/director/editor: Brian Jun

Producer:  Max Velez

Director of photography: Ryam Samul (cq)

Production designer: Barbara Merlotti

Music: Alec Puro

Costume designer:  Rebecca Agee

No rating, 86 minutes