Director: Jeremy Kagan
Written by: Anneke Campbell, Will Lamborn
Cast: Noah Wyle, Sharon Leal, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Xander Berkeley, Elaine Hendrix
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/12/17
Opens: September 22, 2017
Our country is stuck with reactionary rules set by politicians from a different time with a difficult culture. Thanks to what our lawmakers did first in 1791 and then in 1804, we in a technological age must listen to the National Rifle Association’s principal defense of gun possession, which is the Second Amendment to the Constitution. And in the same technological age we elect our president and vice president by a byzantine procedure that is not followed by any other country and which neither party seems willing to change despite the tragic election of 2016. “Shot,” directed by Jeremy Kagan—adept with a number of TV episodes and whose 2007 film “Golda’s Balcony” gave Valerie Harper the chance to play numerous roles—is no friend of the NRA. His drama, written by Anneke Campbell and William Lamborn using their first full-length movie script, can be looked upon as a plea for politicians to do something about restricting gun ownership, but unlike a documentary, this narrative feature can stand on its own as reasonably well-thought-out story.
Kagan uses a split screen to compare the goings-on of two groups of people. The principal story takes us to a movie set where Mark Newman (Noah Wylie) harnesses special effects to show the effect of a bullet on a cowboy. Little did he know that he would be a live model for gunplay when Miguel (Jorge Lendeborg Ur.), a gay, 16-year-old Latino who is bullied by his peers, is given a gun by his cousin for protection, but in an accident Miguel, a decent kid, shoots Mark in the chest, missing his heart.
As though Mark is giving a bad year, he is being sued for divorce by his wife Phoebe (Sharon Leal), but that action is put on hold when Mark is felled by a single bullet. He winds up in a hospital where Dr. Roberts (Xander Berkeley),a kind physician who together with a friendly team prepares him for surgery, promising only to do his best to get him up and walking. Meanwhile Miguel is psychologically battered by his priest, who urges him to do the right thing and tell the police; his mother, who takes the opposite view advising that such a confession will ruin the boy’s life; and his cousin, who wants to retrieve the gun for disposal to prevent Miguel’s arrest.
Director Kagan spends a long time photographing Mark as though to impress on the audience the tragic results of a single bullet. Phoebe tries to comfort Mark but hesitates to agree to tear up the divorce papers, as the unfortunate victim is wheeled into the OR not knowing whether he will be able to walk again. A brief sketch of physical therapy in a pool follows.
To emphasize the danger of guns, the only kind of weapon that can be used to kill and maim without the shooter’s proximity to the victim, Kagan introduces a young man who is himself a victim of bullies, who deeply regrets what he has done, and who must decide whether to pretend the whole mess was a dream, to give himself up to the police, or to look for another option to reestablish his budding sense of ethics. An epilogue tells us to go to ShotMovie.org, which takes you to anti-gun links for Gabby Giffords, the Brady campaign, and other ways to fight against what I believe to be a mis-reading of the Second Amendment. The film is honest, feels organic, and relies only minimally on special effects to depict Mark’s hallucinatory trip to his childhood, when things were uncomplicated and thoughts of getting shot nonexistent.
Unrated. 89 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B