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A tale of murder in small-town Kansas. When Jimmy is lured away from his abusive family by a traveling sideshow carnival, he encounters Sandra, one of the main attractions. The happiness they find together causes them to confront the darkness in their lives. Written by
As a fan of film noir and detective movies, I am too often put off by modern attempts into the genre that try to replace atmosphere and intelligence by just having gratuitous nudity and swearing; the genre managed atmosphere without these in the forties and fifties but yet modern films seem to rely on them. With Firecracker however, everything works perfectly and, as such, the noir portions look exactly like they were made in the forties and fifties. Everything down to lighting, dialogue, and even the delivery of the lines. Even if the material and tone is darker and harsher than would have been allowed back then, it's the closest film to capture accurate film noir in today's cinema. One of the best detective noirs I have seen in ages. The story development is always going to be the most important thing and Firecracker gets it spot-on throughout, doing the proper thing of starting with a simple story and continually building it more and more complex as it goes. Unlike some other "classics", Firecracker manages to do this without ever losing the audience and I found the plot to be both rewardingly complex but yet still very easy to follow.
Needless to say, things are very dark and the script is convincingly dark, leading to an ending that is as depressing as I've seen not so much in what actually happens but also in the wider implications for the characters that the credits prevent us from seeing. Director Steve Balderson does a great job of putting this story in a setting that produces a real strong sense of period but also manages to always be showing us the darkness coming through subtly. Of course it helps that he also has a great cast to work with. Karen Black is iconic in this role and, if I had to pick one film to act as an introduction to Black then it would be this film. She brings out her complex characters better than most actresses in the business. She's a living legend! Susan Traylor has less screen time but is just as impressive. Jak Kendall is unbelievably great for his first film. The supporting cast are all fine but really the film belongs to these three, with Karen Black being the stand out role.
Overall this is a very complex, mysterious film; it is dark and seedy without relying on swearing or nudity to set the atmosphere. The direction is great, with a real atmosphere and sense of time and place that is matched by a great collection of performances delivering a great script. A work of art.
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