Three Novels of Suspense
by Richard Matheson
(In paperback from Amazon)
"Ten 'til Noon"
Time is of the essence in this noir crime thriller. For his second film as director, Scott Storm works from a script by Paul Osborne that is nothing if not a stimulating and adventurous twist on story construction. With vignettes occurring in the same narrow window of time, a scenario of murder conspiracy emerges with sizzling impact. Its varying perspectives and different players unfold a whodunit minutes before it's done: an intricately planned murder, a network of criminals: a lethal con game revealed in episodes occurring in the same ten minutes of a rather lethal day.
In the first segment, Larry Taylor (Rick Wasserman), the young owner and CEO of a high-tech software company, and a knock-out home out of Mansions Magazine, awakens to a male voice telling him, "it's time to get up, Larry." As Larry stirs to consciousness 10 minutes before noon, ahead of the time his alarm clock is set to go off, the voice asks, "Why do you sleep so late?"
Larry, jet-lagged from a long trip, believes he's in a dream but that's harshly dispelled when he turns to find two strangers peering at him in bed. Sitting in the middle of the bedroom is Mr. Jay (Alfonso Freeman: son of Morgan), a talkative hitman, whose bizarre declarations about momentous changes in Larry's life within the next 8 minutes, like his death, freezes Larry in fear. And, oh yes, Mr. Jay also conveys the news that Larry's beloved wife Becky (Rayne Guest) is, as he speaks, in bed with another man. All of Larry's assumptions about his life suddenly take a spin.
Off to Mr. Jay's side stands Ms. Milch (Jenya Lano), a svelte non-talker in a tight grey suit. After Mr. Jay announces Ms. Milch's need to tend to some matters of preparation, and that they'll get on with the business at hand when she returns, she leaves the room. The digital clock numbers tick time away. Larry tries to grasp who could be behind this bizarre nightmare.
No way it could be Becky even if she is philandering. Nor could it be Walter Cooligan (Daniel Nathan Spector), the ex-partner he bought out because of inept mishandling of responsibilities. But, contractor for murder? -- not for all the options in Walter's still full portfolio. Larry's analytic mind, however, is stumped as he searches for the logic that could be behind what he's now facing.
Going back to 11:50 in other places, we find: Becky in bed with her lover, making intense demands on his performance powers; Two clownish surveillance operatives (Daniel Hagen and Dylan Kussman) making a tape of the lovemaking scene and reacting with vulgar crudeness until they're interrupted by a phone call from their employer, Mr. Duke (Thomas Kopache) who cryptically instructs them to immediately shut down and destroy the tape because "we're going another way"; the mysterious Mr. Duke in his limo from which he rides herd on his hitmen, spies and other players in his tightly timed plot; Leo (George Williams), a treacherous mob guy closer to the client at the top of this caper than is healthy for his own life and future career opportunities; Ms. Milch and her "preparations"; and a few others who step-by-careful-step provide all the ingredients cooked up in a tautly devised dish of surprise and twisting satisfactions.
This is an impressive construct, an always intensifying tour de force of writing and realization. It adds its own unique dimensions to former time shifters like last year's "The Dead Girl" and to 2001's "Memento," and, like them, succeeds in its capacity to hold us in the grip of virtuoso noir intricacy.
Helping to bring it off with unerring character and style is a cast of lesser known actors whose unfamiliarity to most of us enhances the freshness of the idea. This puzzle of corruption, crime, intrigue and betrayal is outstanding genre filmmaking at its highest, most fulfilling level for demanding audiences. Its tight 80 minutes is only one more indication of the fine discipline at work.
And, oh yes again, stay in your seat when the credits roll because Mr. Storm has another bit of playfulness in him.
~~ Jules Brenner
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