Assassins [short film] (Michael Bonomo, 2011) Review

Assassins Bill Oberst Jason Lees,

I usually start off any review of a short with my opinion on what a short film is, what they can do, and the strengths inherit in the shorter running time. Well, I no longer have to waste time, yours or mine, by rambling on like that anymore. From now on, all I have to do is point people in Michael Bonomo’s direction, in particular to his latest short: ASSASSINS (watch the trailer below).

Here we get perennially creepy Bill Oberst Jr. (and I mean that in a good way) playing a seasoned killer who comes across a younger, greener assassin out on his first hit. If you’re worried that this sounds too much like the Stallone / Banderas flick of the same name, don’t worry. This is miles above that movie. While I’m currently in litigation with Stallone to try and get those two hours of my life back, this ASSASSINS is ten minutes that I’m going to watch over and over. It’s a complete story, satisfying and fully realized, all in its brief run time. There’s an art to pulling that off, one that Bonomo proves he’s adept at.

Another reason to love ASSASSINS is for that damned Oberst. Does this man ever blink? After checking out the synopsis for this short, you might say it’s doesn’t sound like horror, but I dare you stare into that man’s eyes and not feel creeped the fuck out. His ice cold stare point blank into the camera is down right disturbing. It’s not a new visual idea, we’ve seen characters stare at us through the screen before, but here it comes off as more than just menacing. While Oberst is physically at the disadvantage, we never doubt for an instant that he’s the one in charge. Newbie assassin Vincente DiSanti might be the one holding the gun, but his level of control is played perfectly weak.

As strong as Oberst is, DiSanti is the exact counterbalance. This is lean and mean filmmaking. Sure, at under ten minutes, that sounds easy to do, but it’s such a trap to think that just because your whole film is so short that pacing is automatic, but we’ve all seen those little bitty flicks that never seem to end. ASSASSINS ends, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t have the most wicked smile on my face when it did. I won’t say what happens, it’s not a world changer or a cliché OMG moment, but it IS f’ing brilliant. It’s easily the best case of sound editing, acting, and directing all coming together to fill in the blanks and just hit it out of the park.

Great. Now Bonomo is making me resort to tired old sport clichés to sing praises. I’m gonna have to sit this guy down and do some explaining to him, but I’m too afraid he’s going to send Bill Oberst Jr. out after me.

Bonomo is a man who knows what can be done in ten minutes, how to efficiently tell a story, but to do it in a way that’s without pretense or excessive artiness. Short films are more than teasers for a movie and so much more than just music videos without the music. It’s an artform all unto itself, and Bonomo gets that. I’ve checked out his other shorts, and from beginning to end, he keeps getting better. Below you’ll find a link to his YouTube page, from there you can watch his older films as well as the trailer for ASSASSINS. While you’re there, check out his short ECHO. It may not be typical horror, hell, you might even call it uplifting, but it’s also damn good.

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