With the Memorial Day holiday now behind us, the summer movie season is in full swing. As such, it comes as no surprise that the Sportstalk Radio Network is out with its latest cinematic tour-de-force: The Sammy Watkins Cruiser Cam Video. Although still in EXTREMELY limited release, we were able to screen the film and (SPOILER ALERT) offer a review to you, our loyal readers.
First, a word on production values. While the source material for this film is in a difficult electronic format, the crack production team of Phil Kornblut and Kevin McCrarey solve that particular Gordian Knot by setting up an iPhone in front of the video monitor and coupling an “audio out” port with a multi-directional mic. This cobbled, yet ingenious, method of capturing the raw police footage works on several levels. First, the lack of focus renders the slack-jawed members of the campus police almost humanoid in appearance, and second, it provides occasional, albeit unintentional, insight into the filmmakers themselves. In one particularly revealing incident at the 12:33 mark, the bare hobbit feet of McCrarey are accidentally interposed upon the table in front of the screen. The revelation of his awkward ankle tattoo (which appears to be a Tiger performing an unspeakable act on a goat) does not lack in subtlety, but begs the question of whether or not the directors are actually Clemson fans. The muddiness of their loyalties is only underscored by Kornblut’s gleeful laughter throughout the film.
The choice of color is likewise intriguing. Much like the late Stanley Kubrick’s use of reds and blues to signify danger and safety, our filmmakers have capitalized on the reflections of the police cruiser lights to wash the entire production in burnt orange and bright purple. This is, of course, an oblique reference to Clemson’s school colors which, not coincidentally, are the same as police lights reflecting off nighttime offenders.
Surprisingly, the main dramatic arc of the film does not center on its purported subject, Mr. Watkins. The titular character is instead depicted as quiet (uncommunicative), clumsy (he drops pills, a baggie of marijuana, and several footballs), and prone to feigning injury at the slightest touch.
Instead, the drama of the film is carried by the conflict between seasoned detective Alonzo Harris and the rookie cop, Jake Hoyt. The two officers are depicted as arguing throughout the film, as the rookie insists on conducting an investigation by the numbers, while the more veteran Harris attempts to reason, cajole, bully, and finally threaten at gunpoint in order to head off the arrest of the Tiger athletes. One early exchange:
Jake: I told you, I’m not gonna take that money.
Alonzo: All right, burn it, barbecue it, fish-fry it, I don’t give a [beep]. But the boys’ll feel better about it.
Jake: [beep] their feelings.
Alonzo: You’re not making them feel like you’re part of the team.
Jake: The team? You guys are [beepin] insane. All right, I’ll go back to the Valley. I’ll cut parking tickets. Why does it have to be this way?
Alonzo: I’m sorry I exposed you to it, but it is. It’s ugly, but it’s necessary… Sometimes you gotta have a little dirt on you. . .
[It should be noted that the cops’s names and this dialogue are, in an apparent homage by Sportstalk, lifted directly from the 2001 Ethan Hawke/Denzel Washington film, Training Day.]
The special effects are also impressive. Clearly rivaling a Michael Bay production in technological adroitness, Mr. Watkins’ 2013 Cadillac Escalade is impressively transformed into a slightly ragged-out 1999 Deville. The entire transformation takes place off-camera, and the viewer is left to wonder about the source of the Escalade, the nature of its transforming properties, and exactly why Mr. Watkins would choose to turn it into such a clunker.
Alas, as with all true film, sometimes the undisclosed mysteries are as compelling as the overt narrative.
In the final analysis however, the film fails to deliver. We are not made to care about these characters, and are instead reduced to mere observers of dispassioned players upon the stage. This may have been the director’s intention, in which case the entire banal production is a stinging commentary on the ultimately unrewarding and underwhelming product that CTU perpetually fields.
Tune in next week for our review of the new hit video, “The Dabo Dance.”