After hawking its food-for-thought wares in fests from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Dallas, and now a strong entry in the Method Festival - a one-week event that celebrates performances in independent films - "The Corndog Man" (tonight at the State Theatre in Pasadena) is worth savoring for several reasons, but theatrically it remains a hard sell beyond limited exposure in art cinemas.
Initially, the concept of the film set in contemporary South Carolina is grating and somewhat tedious - a revenge-minded man we never see clearly makes hundreds of harassing phone calls to aging redneck and boat seller Ace (Noble Willingham
). But director Andrew Shea ("Santa Fe") has a good eye for visuals and takes credit for the fine pacing as the film's editor.
Veteran character actor Willingham ("Chinatown"), meanwhile, delivers an awe-inspiring performance as a horrid, pathetic loner who becomes unhinged and eventually turns to violence. Still, nothing is entirely predictable in this probing, gritty drama - which does have its share of comedy relief and subtle humor.
Co-writer Jim Holmes provides the voice of illegitimate Penrod Barker, who deliberately sets out to drive his father, Ace - guilty of bad character and tragic crimes in the past - to ruin by never giving him a moment's rest. In effect a two-person, stagy kind of affair, "Corndog" nicely transcends its potential limitations with adroitly rendered background action, such as the naughty antics of Ace's co-workers while he's on the phone.
Shea utilizes black-and-white imagery and slow-motion in flashback sequences, and food plays a major part as the title would suggest, but even these familiar devices are employed well, and one becomes quite involved with the characters. Of course, there is some harsh, race-related language. Cars, boats and heads get bashed. Ultimately, it's Willingham's amazing success playing an ugly but fascinating wreck of a man that haunts one.
THE CORNDOG MAN
A Doradel Pictures production
Screenwriters:Andrew Shea, David Steen, Jim Holmes
Producers:Jim Holmes, David Steen, Andrew Shea
Executive producers:Kjehl Rasmussen, James J. Melino
Director of photography:David Bridges
Production designer:Rusty Smith
Costume designer:Karen Keyes
Ace Barker:Noble Willingham
Voice of Penrod Barker:Jim Holmes
Running time - 84 minutes
No MPAA rating