Rape. Murder. Betrayal. And it all takes place in one innocuous motel room.
Jon Morrow (Ben Siegler) is a desperate man. A disinterested police force and his own feelings of impotence have led him to conduct his own investigations into the disappearance of his daughter, Lo (Rhoda Jordan) after she was last seen at room 155 of a local motel. While there, he receives a note telling him to wait in the room until three in the afternoon, at which point he will find ‘closure’.
Earlier, Lo and her boyfriend (Cary Woodworth) use the same motel room to try to set up a threesome with another woman. Earlier still, the awkward Brian (Lee Schall) stays in room 155 as he attempts to successfully negotiate a drug deal to purchase rohypnol.
All three timelines progress and entwine over the course of Rule of Three, an indie drama/thriller directed by novelist Eric Shapiro. The slow burn of each escalates into revelations and violence as we discover the truth behind Lo’s disappearance.
Rule of Three is a textbook example of a film playing to its strengths. In this case, they are the carefully-constructed story that never shows its hand too early, the effortlessly effective dialogue courtesy of actress/co-producer/writer Jordan and an excellent cast. The ensemble put in terrific performances across the board, creating strong, believable characters in situations that inexorably spiral out of their control. Indeed, this is a rare level of acting for a low-budget film and serves to elevate the entire piece.
The stellar work in front of the camera is fortunate, as first-time director Shapiro shows his inexperience somewhat behind the camera. The filming is perhaps intended to be matter-of-fact and voyeuristic, but instead comes off as flat and uninspired. The blocking is similarly static and the vast majority of the film consists of scenes of two people sitting talking to each other. It is only due to the strength of the screenplay and the cast that the film remains as watchable as it is. Even then, there are points where the pacing feels somewhat leaden due primarily to the lack of visual interest.
Jordan and Woodworth make an appealing, vulnerable couple with Jordan having to do most of the heavy emotional lifting in moments of silence and there is a fun cameo role from scream queen Tiffany Shepis (Night Of The Demons remake). But it is Rodney Eastman’s slimy drug dealer that steals the show. At turns charming, creepy and dangerous, Eastman (best known as Joey from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4 ) makes a character that could have easily been a cartoon into a magnetic presence, even wringing pathos from his scumbag persona.
An effective thriller constructed on an excellent script, Rule of Three is a small film worthy of bigger attention. Definitely recommended.
The special features comprise primarily a modest and informative feature-length commentary by Shapiro. Oddly, the DVD box also refers to a commentary by Jordan, but this does not appear to be present. Then again, the DVD also features a torture porn style tagline “The things they did to her…” which is extremely misleading as to the film’s content.
DIRECTOR(S): Eric Shapiro | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 2008 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Big Screen Entertainment Group | RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 1.66:1 | REGION: 1 | DISCS: 1