Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

A young African-American man with some incredibly poor people skills and an intensely loyal white mother finds that she’s fed up and he just can’t take it anymore. Director Stephan C. Schaefer’s helms his award winning screenplay ‘Confess’ which is a dramatic treatise on technology, it’s abuses, the problems with the society itself and one angry dudes effort to do something about it.

Eugene Byrd assumes the role of Terell Lessor, a talented computer hacker who seemed to be on life’s fast track until, as a teenager, he was one of the unfortunate victims of the bursting of the Venture Capitol, Internet bubble and has been basically missing in action for a number of years. Wherever Terell was it certainly didn’t make him any more pleasant and we have to assume that he sat around and festered with all of this free time  he had on hand. Resurfacing back in his home town, his mother Agnes (Melissa Leo) is plenty happy to see him, though Terell is at best distant towards his mother whose only concern in life seems to be the well being of her only child. She urges Terell to make contact with his old friend Greg (Glenn Fitzgerald) to get a job working for his IT company. Thing is Terell hates Greg too as he blames him, in addition to the rest of the world for his failings in life. But times being what they are and Terell unable to reign in his sour disposition to hold on to a job in the regular world, he contacts his old friend and jumps on board.

After hearing his mother’s tale of how she was laid off without so much as a goodbye kiss after fourteen years of loyal service to her company, Terell gets the idea of placing a hidden camera in the CEO’s office of this particular company and catches the man in a compromising position. He then uploads the video to a website ‘Confess’ he has created which immediately creates a buzz. Inspired Terell catches more hidden video and even goes so far as to abduct people under gunpoint and have them talk into his handycam on how they are hoodwinking the American public and placing said video

clips on his website. This, of course, would be against the law and now the Feds are on the case, even taking his mom in for questioning, but Terell has an ally in Doctoral candidate Olivia Averill (Ali Larter), who is doing her thesis on hackers and their community, and has taken an intense liking to this rather unlikable young man and she believes in him and the message he’s trying to get across. The problem is that ‘Confess’ has become quite a phenomena and has spawned some copy cat sights who aren’t nearly as non-violent as the pacifist Terell, not to mention the heat from the Feds is getting hotter by the minute leaving our hero standing alone to make some tough decisions and ultimately becoming what he hates most.

"They went in with guns and came out with brooms" is a quote attributed to Malcolm X that he used in a speech to describe an aspect of the civil rights movement back in the 1960’s. This would be akin to what has occurred to the character of Terell Lessor in ‘Confess’ in that yes, he’s plenty angry at what he has perceived as his piece of the American Pie having been taken away, but if you give him just a little piece of that back, he’ll stop all this ruckus and probably even be on our team. This is one of the many clever aspects that Stephan C. Schaeffer’s film offers up in a story that has a lot of important things to say, though I wasn’t completely enthralled with the way that he chose to say it.

There are a lot of good things in this film which features a great multi-layered performance from Melissa Leo as Terrel’s mother, and might I also toss in that through Terell Lessor was bi-racial, his racial background played little into the actual story, at least on the surface of the narrative. In the actual role of Terell Lessor, Eugene Byrd gives an interesting and intense performance as the anti-hero in that he makes it very difficult to root for Terell, which I figure is by design as many of the characters issues and problems are self-inflicted. Only as the film goes on do you get a clearer sense of what Terell is attempting to accomplish though we, like the character himself, may find the reasoning behind his efforts a bit hazy.

What I found frustrating about confess is the scattershot style of the narrative and the inconsistent pace of the film. Schaeffer seems to be straddling the line between a character driven drama and a political satire, and both get short treatment because of this. I don’t think enough was given about Terell’s character to help us truly understand what was driving him and the Ali Larter character was also given very little background on who she was and why she has chosen to do what she is doing. While the few snippets of the people forced to ‘Confess’ were interesting there weren’t enough of them and they only served to tease and titillate and quite honestly were I given a choice I would’ve scaled back on the character elements and raised the satirical elements as they were the most biting and contained the most substance.

All in all, however, ‘Confess’ was a pleasant surprise of a film despite its somewhat inconsistent narrative as the parts that do work, work quite well. Punctuated with some very solid acting performances Stephan C. Schaeffer has crafted a film that shows the definite promise of bigger things to come.

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