'Los Angeles Overnight': Film Review

Rough around the edges.
3/9/2018

A struggling actress gets involved in a criminal scheme in Michael Chrisoulakis' film noir thriller.

Filmmaker Michael Chrisoulakis must have more than a few friends in the industry, judging by the familiar faces who pop up in his debut feature Los Angeles Forever. Famed director Peter Bogdanovich, horror movie icon Lin Shaye and Oscar-nominated actress Sally Kirkland all briefly appear in his film noir effort set in the city that has provided the genre with its most familiar backdrop. Unfortunately, the presence of such veterans isn't enough to compensate for the amateurishness permeating the proceedings, although there's enough quirkiness on display to make the pic an intriguing curiosity.

Arielle Brachfeld (whose extensive screen credits include the likes of Chemical Peel and Snake Outta Compton) plays the central role of Priscilla, an aspiring actress who supports herself waitressing at a low-rent diner in which the servers wear Marilyn Monroe wigs. About to abandon her show business aspirations after a series of dead-end auditions, Priscilla thinks she's found a way out of her financial woes when she overhears a trio of strange customers engaging in a conversation featuring such phrases as "applejacks" and "rabbit hole" that seem to indicate the location of a stash of stolen loot.

Enlisting one of the diner's regular customers, Benny (Azim Rizk), a mechanic who has the hots for her, as an accomplice, Priscilla manages to get away with purloining the loot. The brazen theft does wonders for her confidence, significantly expanding her acting career possibilities, but it naturally leads to dangerous complications with the criminal not-so-mastermind whose money she's stolen.

Screenwriter Guy J. Jackson, who also plays one of the hapless crooks, infuses the dialogue with some amusingly off-kilter lines. In a fateful confrontation with Priscilla, the chief bad guy explains his criminal actions by telling her, "I'm building a forest sanctuary, for the good of all humankind." Another interesting touch is the frequent voiceovers by Bogdanovich, playing a hypnotherapist whose commands resonate in Priscilla's subconscious.

But for every clever element, there's another that feels strange or over-the-top, such as the female casting director who for sheer villainy would give Cruella de Vil a run for her money. The stylistic choices often seem forced, including an overhead shot of a murder being committed on a beach that just makes you wonder where the director got the drone, and a boringly extended foot chase that's as exhausting for viewers as the actors.

The performances by the ringers in the cast are enjoyable, although Kirkland's appearance is disappointingly miniscule. Shaye looks like she's having a good time overemoting, and Bogdanovich, who at this point in his career seems to be emulating his old friend Orson Welles, delivers a typically enjoyable turn making full use of his sonorous voice. Brachfeld is appealing as the innocent heroine turned unlikely femme fatale, but most of the rest of the ensemble are unconvincing.

True to its title, Los Angeles Overnight makes excellent use of its extensive L.A. locations, thankfully foregoing the familiar landmarks that have become cinematic clichés. It's a shame, then, that the film doesn't succeed in its ambition to infuse noir tropes with originality.

Production company: High Noon Films
Distributor: Arena Cinelounge Releasing
Cast: Arielle Brachfeld, Azim Rizk, Lin Shaye, Sally Kirkland, Peter Bogdanovich, Camilla Jackson
Director: Michael Chrisoulakis
Screenwriter: Guy J. Jackson
Producers: Michael Chrisoulakis, Kate Rees Davies, Camilla Jackson, Guy J. Jackson, Kimmie Yan
Executive producer: Christian J. Meoli
Director of photography: Stefan Colson
Editors: Melanie Annan, Michael Chrisoulakis
Composer: Michael Lira

93 minutes