Ok, maybe now’s not the best time to release a three-years-in-the-can action comedy about an indie film crew trapped in a fight to the death with murderous mobsters in a condemned and about-to-be-imploded building that the crew has no permission to film in, that the mobsters want to use to cover up a murder or three.
“Nightshooters” is violent, spattered in blood, riddled with bullets fired from many a prop gun and is all about a film crew with no money cutting corners and running safety risks in a high rise that’s wired for detonation the next day.
Yes, that sounds like every rushed/tight-budget on-set filmmaking accident you’ve ever read about — from “The Crow” and “Midnight Rider” to “Rust,” which just cost a director of photography her life.
But writer-director Marc Price, who made “Colin” and “Magpie” for a song, knows indie film sets. “Colin” was an indie zombie movie, one of the cheapest genres to dive into. “Dawn of the Deadly,” the zombie film frazzled director Marshall (Adam McNab) is scrambling with a skeleton crew of six to finish up. Price knows this world.
So consider this bloody British romp — laden with F-bombs, covered in C-words — on its own terms, take it for the dark lark it is, and try not to think about “dying for your ‘art.'”
Here’s what you get. One of the stars of “Dawn of the Deadly” is Donnie, played by Jean-Paul Ly. He’s a stuntman, fight choreographer and actor. Ly and Price ensure that whatever else that goes on here, “Nightshooters” will have some of the coolest one-on-one or three-on-one martial arts brawls in recent memory.
How do they come about? Because when our seven film folks, filming “pick-ups,” accidentally witness the bearish Tarker (Richard Sandling, funny and fierce), his brutish lieutenant O’Hara (Nicholas Aaron, even fiercer) and his many mob minions murder a couple of people who have crossed them, the filmmakers are going to need “somebody who can throw a punch.”
Their aging, tipsy and difficult “star” (Doug Allen) isn’t up to that.
“Did you know that I did a film with Scott Adkins? Punched me in the face. It was an accident!”
Director of Photography Jen (Kaitlyn Riordan) is more concerned about “grain” in the images.
“You said you wanted it to look like ‘”John Wick.’ There’s no ‘grain’ in ‘John Wick.'”
Soundguy Oddbod (Nicky Evans) is only good for bitching about cell phone interference. Hapless production assistant Kim (Mica Proctor) is, well, hapless.
That leaves effects whiz Ellie (Rosanna Hoult). And she’s too busy DIYing gadgets, squibs, acids and makeshift bombs to try and save them from summary slaughter by the bad guys whose motto always is “leave no witnesses.”
So it’s down to Donnie, and in a string of set-pieces that would hold their own in any half-decent martial arts actioner, Ly high-kicks ass and takes names.
Actually, the mob is the one that takes names. They grab a call sheet, try to avoid firing their many, many guns in a building loaded with explosives, and hunt down our Microbudget Movie Seven.
The truly “fun” bit is in the opening sequence, loaded with cheesy zombie mayhem from the rough cut of “Dawn of the Deadly.” Exploding heads, C-movie one-liners, it looks like a student film with professional action choreography.
But that’s the movie within the movie. “Nightshooters” proper is darker and deadlier. The disconnect isn’t as pronounced as more heads explode — or melt — and booby-traps and makeshift guns kill with a certain amusing brio.
“Real” guns, which the legions of the lawless tote? They just mean that the film crew isn’t being paid enough to face death on the job, because not all of them make it to “That’s a wrap.”
In a year’s time, when the “Rust” accident has faded from even our long-term memory, “Nightshooters” will play as more fun than it does now.
But its afterlife should include screenings to every incoming class at every film school the world over. Kids, if you’re ever on a set where you see or hear ANYthing that feels like this set, clock out. Totally NOT worth it.
Rating: unrated, graphic violence, profanity aplenty
Cast: Jean-Paul Ly, Kaitlyn Riordan, Rosanna Hoult, Doug Allen, Nicholas Aaron, Adam McNab, Mica Proctor, Richard Sandling and Nicky Evans
Credits: Scripted and directed by Marc Price. An IndieCan release.
Running time: 1:45