Reviewed by

Christopher Armsted

Here’s what we know. Everybody in the house is filled with bullets and on their way to heaven or hell except for the two survivors Danny Shamus (A.J. Buckley) and Finn Williams (Yul Vasquez). Investigating police Detectives Cris Romano (Gabrielle Union) and Dwayne Burkhalter (Giancarlo Esposito) – both close personal friends of mine I might add, more on that later – have the task of interrogating both men separately in the interrogation box to find out the truth of what happened this night. What we have on our hands here folks in a twisty crime thriller, easily my favorite type of movie. But unfortunately ‘The Box’ may have carried its twistyness a little too far.

According to Finn, he and his buddies Tommy (Brett Donowho), Kirby (Jason Winston George) and James (Rob Ortiz) are in a home owned by the beautiful Sasha (Mia Maestro) who Tommy house sits for. Tommy is going away for a while and the good buddies are seeing him off with one last game of poker. It also happens that Finn is also having a torrid affair with Sasha. Then without warning a bunch of armed gunmen bust in, terrorize our poker players who manage to subdue one of the gunmen, a shootout ensues with the cops busting in just before Finn looked as if he was about to end the life of Shamus, the only surviving gunmen.

Danny Shamus tells a story that isn’t so dissimilar, and he assists us in describing what led to the home invasion in the fist place as super angry and completely of his rocker ex-cop Ray Kamen (Max Ryan) wants revenge against somebody, anybody, who he thinks is responsible for his ouster from the force. His buddy Elliot Creed (Matthew Matthias) has info on a scam involving this Sasha chick and Finn’s buddy Tommy and figures there’s a lot of money holed up in the house somewhere. So Ray, Elliot and Danny invade the home which leads to a situation similar to what Finn has described, with just a few subtle differences.

Seems all pretty cut and dried to Detective Burhalter, but something just ain’t sitting right with Detective Romano who continues to grill and grill and grill until she can get past the whole ‘he said she said’ bull and get to the freaking truth.

I tell you what, for a movie that was as unceremoniously shuttled off to Direct to Video as this one was, ‘The Box’ is one nice looking, slickly produced movie. First time director A.J. Kparr certainly knows where to place his camera in the right spots for maximum effect and the lighting and cinematography were top notch. Though ‘The Box’ doesn’t have any huge mega stars in it, it does have quality character actors throughout who do good work with the roles they were given. So Gabrielle Union and Giancarlo Esposito aren’t REALLY good friends of mine BUT I did light and shoot both of them for interviews that we did with them for Decode Magazine and Colours TV, and I spoke to both of them at some length. Very nice people. Though Mr. Kparr shows talent in framing a scene, he might have wanted to farm off the scripting of his flick on to someone else as his story is a bit too ambitious for its own good. I understand and appreciate the need to keep the audience guessing and on its toes but after a while even the most patient watcher has to toss their hands in the air in frustration as the twists continue to mount and become increasingly unbelievable.

Now following are SPOILERS so please don’t read any further if you want to see this flick, which ultimately IS worth seeing in my opinion. A few things come to mind as the twistyness started to mount in this thing. Finn strangled Sasha, or so he thought. Now the timeline isn’t made clear for these events which adds to the confusion. Sasha survived the strangling but Burkhalter came behind Finn and put a silenced bullet in the head of Sasha. Now Finn, being quite the killer as we will learn, probably should have known that he didn’t strangle Sasha to death as I’m sure he would have noticed some kind of news in the paper or something about someone being found with a bullet in the head and thus he shouldn’t have confessed in the first place. Turns out Burkhalter didn’t kill Sasha like he thought, but some poor woman in another room. This now makes Burkhalter the dummy since we saw him watch Finn walk out of the room that Sasha was in. This becomes more of an issue since Sasha, wanting to make sure that this woman is mistaken for her, gets a shotgun, from where I don’t know, and blows her head to smithereens. Now a DETECTIVE should know that a single bullet through a pillow from a small caliber gun shouldn’t blow somebody’s head off, but again, Burkhalter must not follow his own crimes too closely.

Also, fine as she is, Gabrielle Union doesn’t curse all that well, since this was supposed to add to her ‘tough cop’ exterior. Though hearing her say ‘She likes to get down with the brown’ and ‘Was Tommy blowing her back out?’ was pretty amusing.

There are plenty of other coincidences and happenstance that we need to absorb to buy into this story which borders on the staggering, and we won’t get into all of that, but it does sink an otherwise promising film into the camp of the completely ludicrous. ‘The Box’ is promise unfulfilled, undone by a sloppy script, but still… my kind of movie. I’d watch it again as opposed to watching ‘how to lose a guy in ten days’ for the first time.

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