Carl Franklin’s brilliant One False Move is sure to keep the movie violence debate alive. but it‘s also a daring blend of tough thriller and racial conscience film. Trevor Johnston meets a director who definitely isn‘t ‘the new Spike Lee’.
The opening is. literally. a killer. In the process of a drugs heist. hardened criminal Ray has his cold- bloodcd comrade Pluto dispatch an innocent Los Angeles' family while girlfriend Fantasia looks on in horror. The victims are bound. bags over their heads. then knifed: dumb animals to the slaughter. It’s an act of truly shocking brutality that casts a long shadow over the rest of the action that follows. a gripping Southern-set crime picture with a flavour and agenda of daring themes all of its own.
Although passed uncut with an 18 certificate. it's rumoured that the British Board of Film Classiﬁcation has its misgivings about One False Move's deeply disturbing first few minutes. Yet in the light of the current moral panic surrounding screen violence. director (‘arl Franklin is adamant that the carnage on view here is designed to disturb. and meaningfully so at a time when Hollywood‘s crassest blockbusters place very little value on the termination of a human life. While citing the influence of John MacNaughton‘s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Franklin says that his main aim in assembling his film‘s controversial first reel was to capture the impact of a newspaper report.
‘I‘ve seen a lot of recent pictures where hundreds of people die. bullets rip through flesh. heads explode and the audience has no emotional response whatsoever.‘ reflects the former TV bit part actor. who decided to direct at the grand old age of 37 when he signed up for the filmmaking course at the American Film Institute. ‘I myself try to approach the material on an emotional level. and what often affects me is when I read in the papers that so-and-so was murdered last night. They give a few little personal details — a graduate from this college. a father of two. whatever — and it‘s those tiny reminders of another life gone that really touch us. So what I tried to do with the opening sequence in One False More was to use the family‘s own home videos to indicate that these are vibrant. happy human beings before they‘re cut down. The violence isn't graphic. We don‘t see any entry wounds. But it carries with it the unbearable sense of the passage of life. the violation of innocence.‘
It‘s this thoughtful. caring and thoroughly responsible approach to the kind of material that rarely receives such treatment which makes ()ne False Move the masterly piece of work it undoubtedly is. Like Reservoir Dogs. the few moments of mayhem will probably attract most attention. but although Franklin‘s more measured
approach can‘t equal the surface flash of the
Tarantino flick. its thematic richness probably makes
it the superior piece.
Franklin calls it ‘a film about atonement'. and his narrative traces the effort of the protagonists to run. unsuccessfully. from their sins in their past. As Ray. Pluto and Fantasia flee across the country from the scene of the crime. they believe they are making all
the right choices in escaping the law. but in her home
town of Star City. Arkansas. two cynical I.A cops have already teamed up with impulsive local sheriff ‘Hurricane’ Dixon to correctly second-guess their eventual destination. Yet as the two parties inexorably converge towards a final showdown. we learn more about the ill-starred personal and cultural histories that have brought the whole scenario to pass.
‘What I tried to do with the opening sequence was to use the family’s own home videos to indicate that these are
vibrant, happy human beings before
they’re cut down. The violence isn’t
graphic. We don’t see any entry wounds.’
I What's most impressive about Franklin‘s take on g the machinations of this admittedly inventive thriller plot. is the room he gives the diverse characters to
tell vou who they are and where they come from.
5 are. of course. in the South. a landscape where the legacy of racial wrongdoing still lingers in the air. I\'
ing present to past in a way that makes the binds
l more obvious than in any other part of the US.
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: PATRICK DOYLE O LESBIAN AND GAY FILM FESTIVAL
| Without giving too much away. it's fair to say that we
One False Move: “masterly piece of work’ Franklin filters the whole baggage of injustice and the dread spectre of miscegenation into his story. creating a portrait of today‘s racial tensions. whose very everyday—ness makes it all the more effective.
. ‘We don‘t moralise about anything.‘ confirms the man whose Captain Crane character was a regular supporting player on The A-leam. ‘We cast no judgement on the characters paying for what they did. There wasn't a strong political or polemical agenda here and I think that had there been. it would have dehumanised our characters. To me. that‘s not how racism or any social ill manifests itself on a day- to-day basis. It's personal. it's complex. Contradictory. You can use a derogatory racial remark one minute then be arm in arm with a buddy of yours from that same group of people the next. That‘s the way we are now.‘
Having waited over two years for One False More's American distributor to give his modestly-budgeted. critically acclaimed film anything like a release. the fortysomething Franklin is hardly one to fit in snugly beside the likes ofJohn Singleton and Matty Rich in the post-Spike grouping of black American movie- making talent. However. with a Jonathan Demme- produced adaptation of Walter Moseley‘s cult thriller Devil With A Blue Dress at the development stage. his is clearly a name you're going to be hearing more
l ‘A few years back. I knew I had to direct. but I
I didn‘t know I could do it.’ he smiles. ‘Before I went
3 to the AF]. 1 hadn‘t directed traffic. Now though.
! things are definitely on the up and up. I can hardly
believe it. really.‘
()ne False Move opens a! the Edinburgh Film/louse on Sunday 1/ April and Glasgow Film Theatre on I Sunday I 8 April.
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