The directorial feature debut from Samuel Gridley, who also co-wrote the script with lead actor Luke Kaile, Criminal Audition feels very much like the kind of thing that is a directorial feature debut from someone who has worked on the script with their lead actor. That's not to rudely dismiss the film, but it's something that feels designed for actors to act in, instead of a tale needing told cinematically. This could easily be a small play, and Gridley doesn't do enough to distract viewers from that fact, which is a shame.
Let's get to the plot first anyway. There's a company that offers a unique service for hefty fees. They will get someone to take the rap for your crimes. The latest crime needing someone to step forward is a murder case, and a number of individuals are in to audition for the job (hence the name of the movie). They have to prove that they can convincingly offer themselves up as criminals, whether it's having the right profile or being able to "accidentally" reveal information under interrogation that can help make a stronger case against them. This job is on behalf of a client, Miss M (Noeleen Comiskey), who appears and starts to question the capability of the prospective criminals, and the company itself. Tensions rise, applicants are pitted against one another, and someone has a hidden agenda.
The main thing to emphasise here is that Criminal Audition isn't bad. It just has some major flaws that it doesn't realise are there, meaning neither Gridley nor Kaile work harder to overcome them.
The first flaw is the script. While it's not painfully awful, this is one of those small films in which a lot of ideas are repeated, with many scenes simply feeling like rehashed filler to pad out the runtime, and a lot of the dialogue is fine if considered in a vacuum, but doesn't really fit the various characters. Some individuals stand out, but this is a film in which most of the characters say things that you could imagine being said by almost any one of the other characters. There should be many different voices onscreen, but most of the time we simply hear the words from Gridley/Kaile.
The second flaw is that inability to open things up. I get it, keeping locations limited and costs down is a big part of making your first feature film. There are still ways to go about it that can make your film feel bigger than it actually is. It sometimes needs an adaptable set and a variety of interesting audio cues, it sometimes needs the charitable nature of someone with a decent space, but there are ways to change things up. Criminal Audition doesn't just feel like a play, it could almost be turned into a radio play, that's how lacking in any cinematic touches it is.
There are other flaws, not least of which is a central idea that doesn't seem to have been all that well thought out, but I don't want people to think I am being too harsh. Kudos to everyone involved for getting something made, and not trying to cash in on some of the current movie trends.
I didn't regret my time spent watching this, and that's thanks in no small part to the roles played onscreen by Kaile, Rich Keeble (William, a co-founder of the company), Rebecca Calienda (one of the applicants), Comiskey, and one or two others, but I won't be rushing to rewatch it, and I would hesitate to recommend it to many others. I'd like to see what the film-makers do when they have some more resources though, or even when they figure out how to make more of the limited resources available to them.
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