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Trouble Is My Business
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(Apr 03, 2018)
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Detective Roland Drake falls for two sisters from the Montemar family. One woman is dead and the other wants to kill him. Passion, murder, and betrayal. Just another day at the office.
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As evidenced by Trouble Is My Business, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Less a passion project than a labor of love, writer-director-actor Thomas Konkle gathered the necessary ingredients and managed to draw forth a film by sheer force of will. With years involved in the writing, planning, independent and personal financing, and using every movie-making trick imaginable, Trouble is to film noir what Once Upon a Time in the West was to the western: the final word. With classic elements, a fresh cast, and painstaking detail, Konkle has created a world both familiar and new. Twists, betrayal, and mystery are finely intertwined with the wit, violence, and eventuality of the genre.
Locations are important to a production like this, but what couldn’t be found and rented had to be created — often digitally. While Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow buckled under the weight of “look what we can do,” Konkle puts his players in the foreground and allowed the story to dictate the effects, not the other way around. With talents like Jordana Capra as matriarch Evelyn Montemar and Vernon Wells as Detective Barry Tate, the production is nearly seemless and perhaps too-real in its detail, from meticulous editing to a sweeping soundtrack. It’s clear what the filmmakers wanted this to become, and the time put into the post production shows what can be done with today’s off-the-shelf filmmaking tools and the ingenuity of modern creators.
Over the last five years, this reviewer has seen several independent productions shaped from concept to completion. From an old-time rocket ship carrying space rangers into the great beyond to a backwoods werewolf reneging on his deal with the devil, there’s no shortage of imagination out there while Hollywood continues to reboot television and movie franchises they never understood to begin with. Trouble sets itself apart in both ambition and execution, and the risk yielded a great reward: a film deserving to be seen and appreciated.
When you think about the term “independent feature film”, images of arty love stories, football hooligans and cliched horror will likely pop into your mind. You may think about poor acting alongside amateurish cinematography and worse sound design (which in some cases is fair, but definitely not all). What you probably won’t think about is a stylish film noir set in a backdrop of 1940’s Los Angeles, with great dialogue performed by some very capable actors; yet this is exactly what Trouble is My Business is. Directed by Tom Konkle based on a screenplay by Konkle and fellow actor/scribe Brittney Powell, Trouble is My Business is a clever and well-crafted movie with nods to the Golden era of Hollywood – think Chinatown meets the video game L.A. Noir with a bit of comic book style thrown in for good measure and you’ll be on the right track.
After a prior missing persons case ended in disaster, private investigator Roland Drake (played by director Konkle) finds himself down on his luck. Work has dried up, he has recently received some unwanted attention from the press and his office is about to be foreclosed. Then he finds a beautiful Femme Fatale at his desk. Katherine Montemar requires Drake to help her find her missing father. Although he is reluctant at first, Konkle accepts the job and they soon find themselves in bed together. Things then take a turn for the worse, when Drake wakes up in blood-soaked sheets with Katherine missing. Confused, Drake is soon paid a visit by Katherine’s older sister Jennifer (Brittney Powell) who now wants Drake to find both Katherine and their father.
Soon, Drake finds himself in a web of lies, treachery and deceit alongside some shady characters including his former partner Lew MacDonald (David Beeler), the hard-nosed and rather dodgy police detective Barry Tate (Vernon Wells) and the wicked Montemar matriarch Evelyn (Jordana Capra). It was great to see Vernon Wells in this production. Many readers out there will fondly remember his performances as the chain mail-wearing villain Bennett in the action classic Commando and when he wore the red Mohawk as Wez in Mad Max 2: Road Warrior. Other die-hard film fans will recognise Brittney Powell from (a personal guilty pleasure of mine) Airborne alongside Jack Black and Set Green in early roles. As a matter of fact, all the cast give good performances, with some over-the-top line delivery that help generate laughs and intrigue to great effect, especially Konkle who seemed to have a whale of a time in front of, and behind, the camera.
The production design is rather excellent. Konkle and his team transport us to the 40’s with the help of some small and neat details mixed with great set dressing and lighting. Talking about the sets, the team used a mixture of real locations alongside green screen. Whilst some scenes are obviously crafted using cgi, some are done so well that only fellow filmmakers will be able to tell. The score, by composers Thomas Chase and Hayden Clement works very well with the imagery, even if it seems to be playing constantly in the background.
It’s obvious to tell that a hell of a lot of hard work and effort was put into creating Trouble is My Business, it is a labour of love for all those involved and it should certainly be applauded. With a small budget, many filmmakers would have easily opted to create something on a smaller scale, yet this production team went all out. They set out to make a love letter to all things noir and they certainly succeeded. Trouble is My Business is a lot of fun and worth checking out. - Carl Burgess