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Dressed in his business attire and carrying an expensive briefcase, a marketing executive named Murray is taking a shortcut through an urban park in Toronto. Lost in a secluded area of the park, he gets into an altercation with a teen-aged punk, who unknown to Murray is only one of five - four guys and a girl - in a gang. Running to get away from the gang, Murray has the idea that he will climb up a large tree to hide out until the punks leave. Unfortunately for Murray, they find him in the tree. Initially, Murray believes he has no other alternative but to do what they say. But Murray and the punks soon realize that Murray has some leverage being where he is. This altercation soon becomes a standoff and a test of wills to see who can outlast the other, the standoff which includes both physical and emotional torment on both sides, the latter as each learns more about the other. Written by
Oh, the things one finds on late night Canadian television.
I was flicking through channels on my TV dial at 1:30am couple of nights ago when I stumbled upon this thing already deep into opening credits. Though the little that I saw of the introductory sequence had me convinced it was at best a corny Canadian TV 'project' or an episode of some US syndicated TV series shot in Toronto I still decided to keep watching. And I'm glad I did. Well, kind of.
The first part of the movie (chase scene, Murray getting on the tree, first physical confrontations before the impasse, etc.) is truly riveting. It exploits every big city dweller's palpable fear - that of being victimized in a random, senseless act of violence. Basically, this is the same shtick Steven Spielberg built his movie empire on: introduce a rudimentary phobia every normal person harbours to some degree, extend it to extreme levels, and then exploit it cinematically to no end - his movie "Duel", and even "Jaws" to a lesser extent, often came to mind during the initial stages of "Treed Murray". So, kudos to William Philips for, at least, keeping me on the edge of my seat. At this point I still cared about all characters and was really interested in seeing where the plot takes them.
Unfortunately, the movie starts derailing sometime into the public park tree standoff. Despite coming off as this great menacing force in the beginning, watching these 5 hoodlums gets to be a major drag as time goes on. The screenplay tries its hardest to put a human face on them through minor, halfassed subplots, in hopes of providing the story with fresh legs, but all the details they (in)voluntarily surrender about personal hardships pale in comparison with the fact they're chomping at the bit to kill this random guy for absolutely no reason. We also learn Murray is no choir boy himself, but again, the fact that he cheats on his pregnant wife, occasionally uses hard drugs, and generally seems to be a manipulative, self involved jerk is completely irrelevant when viewed against the insanely murderous path these kids are on.
The fact that screenplay calls on the kid-gangsters to take turns at being evil, insightful, conniving, benevolent, barbaric, caring, bloodthirsty, poignant, etc. doesn't help either. That it comes off hokey is no great surprise as such series of transformations would be next to impossible even for seasoned pros to pull off, let alone a bunch of teen actors.
One also can't help but notice the unrealistic touches throughout the film. Murray, lame ad-exec who probably never lifted anything heavier than a pencil in his life, exhibits remarkable balance and stamina in fighting off a couple of charging gangbangers from a narrow tree branch. While incapacitating one of them, the other manages to get on the tree and Murray amazingly further succeeds in cuffing and tying him using a personal belt - quite a feat considering for example that it usually takes two trained cops to cuff an overzealous protester on terra firma.
Still, I'd be more than willing to overlook all the artificial moments had the movie been more brave and direct. It started off with a lot of potential but quickly started losing its punch.
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