It’s encouraging to see a local (i.e. Vancouver) film with such a limited budget that looks as good as The Odds. This beautifully-shot film is the first feature from writer/director Simon Davidson and stars a slew of Vancouver talent. Tyler Johnston stars as Desson, a high school senior who gets caught up in an illegal gambling ring. Murder and mayhem necessarily follow.
The film is intended as a fresh take on the high school thriller genre, with a dash of film noir thrown in for good measure. The film’s aesthetic hits all the right notes, with deep, cool colours, dark shadows, and shallow depth of field all helping to create an effective atmosphere for the film. In a Q&A panel at the Vancouver premiere, Davidson claims cinematographer Norm Li took his cues from David Fincher’s Zodiac cinematographer Harris Savides and shot much of the film two stops under “ideal” aperture (without Davidson’s knowledge) to ensure that night exteriors were dark and deep. Good work, Li. Because the cinematography is one of the shining points of the film, with the early wrestling scenes being some of the most skillfully-composed (with a nod to editor Greg Ng as well).
The Odds, unfortunately, suffers from over-writing on Davidson’s part. Instead of letting situations play out in Li’s capable visuals, nearly every scrap of information is crammed into unnecessary dialogue. Despite citing Jacques Audiard as an influence (in that his characters are neither good nor bad, but “somewhere in between”) Davidson feels it necessary to spell out every character motivation for us. It’s obvious that he is trying desperately to make his film into Rian Johnson’s Brick, and while he is on the right track from a technical standpoint, with capable direction of both camera and actors, The Odds could’ve used a screenwriter.
Tyler Johnston as Desson exhibits an easy charm and honesty that carries the film forward, but is not given the opportunity to express much emotion other than his detached confidence and sexy just-off-camera eyelines.
Julia Maxwell is beautiful as Colleen, at turns vulnerable and strong, making the best of an under-written character who in the end is peripheral to the story itself, despite being the film’s ostensible female lead.
Robert Moloney is the best actor in the film, his self-loathing apathy as Desson’s father a source of sympathy, frustration, and humour. Scott Patey and Jaren Brandt Bartlett as antagonists of sorts fall into cliché occasionally, but hold their own. Calum Worthy also turns in an effective performance as Barry.
Patric Caird provides an original soundtrack and the industrial-dirty-underground-electronic stuff he comes up with lends an air of badassery to a bunch of kids playing cards in Paul’s mom’s basement that might not otherwise have been there. However, his soaring violins serve not so much to complement the film’s emotional scenes, but to overpower them with melodrama and could have been reigned in a bit.
Verdict: Norm Li, call me. Simon Davidson, call a screenwriter.
Rating: 3 stars.
Medium: Empire Granville 7 Theatre, Vancouver. 1st viewing.
[Photos by Lyle Stafford]