|Index||6 reviews in total|
This surprisingly, well motivated and tightly scripted story is about a embittered young man who turns to an extreme method of protest via the Internet. Terell (Eugene Byrd) is a computer genius hacker, who returns to New York after an extending absence to face his old business partner, his family and try to bring a little more justice by spreading the truth with his spy camera videos. Olivia Averill (Ali Larter) is a sensual intense Columbia grad student who is driven to find a way to report on social content. Their worlds cross in a very unexpected way that forces Terell to hide his real identity. When his video protests hit the media, he becomes more like a comic book hacker hero whose followers quickly get out of control. Excellent and believable and filled out roles, all around, for the versatile William Sadler as a Senator caught in the crossfire, Glenn Fitzgerald as a savvy but ruthless business partner, Scott Cohen as a really mad, enraged media executive and the very polished Melissa Leo as Terell's mother.
Stefan Schaefer's excellent first feature film, Confess, is a wonderfully written and acted, tense current-era thriller about political protest turned virulent and uncontrollable in our modern internet-ecology and -video information age. Embittered and talented computer hacker Terell (Eugene Byrd) re-emerges in New York after a long period underground, following a devastating start-up failure, for which he blames his ex-business partner. His personal revenge schemes via clandestine webcam metastasize into a powerful and dangerous terrorist-style movement that culminates in reckless kidnappings and murderous copycats. Schafer employs super smart use of the digital video medium and sometimes frenetic-seeming editing, as well as rewinds and flashbacks, to charge his premise with urgency and make it taut. With first-rate performances by entire cast, and a well-wrought script, the movie manages to, without bludgeoning, get its message nicely across.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie hits the trifecta of indy filmmaking foibles. It's got an
unlikable, unsympathetic main character, a plot that leaves big chunks
of the story untold and a muddled theme that makes less sense the more
you think about it.
Terell Lessor (Eugene Byrd) is a former computer hacker who, for never explained reasons, returns to New York City after being away for years. Fueled by repressed resentment for his mother (Melissa Leo) and festering anger at a world he feels has treated him unfairly, Terell turns himself into a video vigilante. He begins videotaping people without their knowledge, editing the footage into a compromising form and then posting it to a website as a "confession" of who the people really are. He catches a middle class father masturbating to computer porn, a business executive pressuring his secretary into sex and a venture capitalist that Terell provokes into an angry outburst.
These videos become an internet sensation, which is the most believable part of the story because far dumber things have caught on with the web-going public, and that leads to Terell hooking up with radical college student Olivia Averill (Ali Larter) who pushes Terell to more extreme and symbolic actions. Terell starts kidnapping people and forcing them to "confess" on camera, which leads to him hiding out from the FBI in Olivia's apartment.
As Olivia pushes Terell and the growing sentiment inspired by him in more violent and destructive ways, Terell gets sick and tired of the whole thing and turns himself in to the authorities, but only after cutting a deal for no jail time. This catapults Terell from internet icon to pop culture juggernaut, until he gets sick and tired of that and fakes his own death. The end.
As you can tell, Confess starts out with a decent premise but never figures out where to go with it. It just pulls the plug on its Howard Beale-esque tale of a man lashing out at society and the unexpected ripples he produces and goes off on an unfocused tangent about the commodification of celebrity that springs out of nowhere. The beginning and the middle of the story have a little in common, but neither has a thing to do with the end. It's like writer/director Stefan C Schaefer decided to take the movie in an unexpected direction and was unconcerned with how little structural or thematic sense it made.
Worse than the plot, however, is the supposed hero of the film. I would guess that Terell Lessor is supposed to the average person who's been screwed by the system. What he is, though, is a whiny, self-centered, arrogant loser with adolescent grievances the movie never bothers to justify or even fully explain. It's hard to cheer on an annoying jerk whose misery is largely of his own making when the story never realizes or acknowledges that fact. Instead of being a man led astray who comes to see the error of his ways, Terell is nothing but a brat who abandons his cause when he ceases to be the center of attention.
This is also one of those films where the audience is never supposed to question how things happen or why certain things don't happen. For example, how Terell is able to kidnap people and avoid getting caught by the FBI is never broached or clarified. I 'm not talking about suspension of disbelief. I'm talking about lazy storytelling where the audience is expected to lap up whatever gruel the filmmaker dishes out to them.
Melissa Leo as Terell's mother and William Sadler as a kidnapped U.S. Senator are good and the rest of the cast never embarrasses themselves. The direction is pedestrian and best and the script is too often more like the bullet points of a story instead of a fully written screenplay.
In the end, Confess isn't an utter disaster because those can be somewhat entertaining. It's fatuous, inapt, listless and too long, even though it lasts only 90 minutes. And no, it is rated R but Ali Larter does not get naked in it.
Hey, changing the world is no easy trick. The little guy get's stepped
on all the time. And even when someone tries to do something to shake
up the establishment, things can so easily go wrong. And of course,
nobody's perfect; not even the little guy. This movie says it all.
Great concept. Great script. Great acting. What's not to like?
Eugene Byrd has been around for a long time (Sesame Street) but hasn't ever been given a chance to really carry a film. He does it here, demonstrating again he has serious acting chops.
Ali Larter (HEROES) is now a big star, but the fact that she does smaller projects like this - ones where she isn't getting paid millions - shows she's interested in expanding her horizons beyond only being the attractive blonde.
I hear the DVDs coming out in August. See it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In CONFESS, Eugene Byrd portrays a little man--Terell--with an over-sized chip on his shoulder, anti-social impulses in his blood, and implausible luck allowing him to escape the consequences of whatever wrong-headed fool thing he dreams up next. The rest of the cast--admittedly third-rate with such summer stock as Ali Larter (Olivia) and Barry Sadler (Sen. Lampert, R-SC)--at least manage to keep things consistent by playing down to Byrd's level of non-charisma and ridiculously juvenile line readings. I only rated this an above-average 6 of 10 because the premise anticipates You Tube somewhat, with a pinch NETWORKish angst at gunpoint thrown in. If a group of junior high kids managed the level of production values and acting skills exhibited here, I'd up my rating to an "8" considering their age. But Sadler, for one, is a little long in the tooth to rake in pity points. Terell, an allegedly gifted student with a self-sacrificing white mom (played by Melissa Leo) and a dead black dad (shown only in a family photo), obtains every glitzy dream fulfillment possible through his series of revenge felonies. Twenty minutes into CONFESS, I just wished he'd go into community organizing and have Oprah appoint him U.S. President.
If you like Michael Moore movies then you'll love this one. The main
character (Terell) is obviously more over the top in his methods, but
they both ambush powerful figures, videotape them, then edit the
footage to make them look as bad as possible. It's really sleazy and
hard to root for him as a hero unless you're some kind of
anti-establishment, anarchist, Marxist, or assorted nut job. The movie
sets up all these straw men for Terell to expose who are ridiculously
stereotypical. They're all racist, arrogant, rich, greedy, snobby,
condescending. The film tries to convince you that every white
housewife is a bitch, every white kid is a spoiled brat, every white
person who works in an office is a pompous jerk. I can take a well-done
movie where the villain is a senator or CEO, but I don't want to be
preached to that there's an organized establishment designed to protect
itself and keep everyone else down.
An annoying plot line involves how the hero is a computer genius but was previously forced out of his company at age 19 by venture capitalists who took his invention and got rich off it while he got nothing. It's just more stereotypical crap. And if he's such a genius how come he can't get his life going again afterward? Because he's a spiteful jerk who sits around feeling sorry for himself instead of moving on with his life.
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