Monday, March 28, 2011

THE KILLING JAR

Every once in  a while a little, low-budget movie comes along that surpasses - even if only slightly - your expectations. One of the most recent of these to cross my desk and DVD player was THE KILLING JAR (2010), written, directed and edited by Mark Young (SOUTHERN GOTHIC).

It's a hot summer evening at a small roadside dinner, near closing time. A handful of locals are hanging out, chatting up waitress Noreen (Amber Benson, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and proprietor/cook Jimmy (Danny Trejo, MACHETE), when a news report comes over the radio about a multiple homicide in a neighboring county. The unsettling news puts the diner's occupants on edge - especially when a couple of lone customers come in (Harold Perrineau, LOST, and Michael Madsen, RESERVOIR DOGS), one of whom exhibits a decidedly violent temper. Soon there's a shotgun-toting psychopath among them, playing his own twisted game of life and death. Will anyone survive the night?

Frankly, I didn't expect much from the movie. Shot entirely in a single location and playing out in roughly "real time," Young's THE KILLING JAR turned out to be an above-average indie thriller with an exceptional, geek-friendly cast - especially Madsen, who actually seems to be engaged and "present" in the film for a change, and Benson, who infuses the world-weary Noreen with considerable humanity - and a surprisingly strong script. Most of the dialogue plays quite naturally (thanks, in great part, to the experienced cast), and while the pace is maybe a bit too leisurely, the director does manage a decent amount of tension. The violence, when it occurs, is brutal and graphic, and overall, the movie is very well shot and edited.

The DVD from Image Entertainment sports a very nice 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, with nice warm colors and a pristine image. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1.  The only extra is the film's trailer.

THE KILLING JAR is not likely to win any great awards, but it is a perfectly satisfactory entertainment, and at a lean 90 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome. I enjoyed it, but while I'm not certain it merits a purchase (unless you're a big Amber Benson fan), it's at least worth a rental.

BUYThe Killing Jar