|Index||9 reviews in total|
Flight of the Cardinal is character-driven mystery/thriller with
Hitchcockian undertones. Set in the North Carolina mountains, it
features Ross Beschler as Grady Wilson, the manager of a small bed and
breakfast, and David Bonner as Beetle Hobbs, a local with devilish
intentions. The plot unfolds to discover a tattered love story, a
shamed personal history and a psychopathic villain.
Although screened at many LGBT festivals, the film does not have an overbearingly gay theme. I applaud director Robert Gaston for making a film featuring gay characters without feeling the need to exploit stereotypes or differences. Grady's sexuality was a small part of who he was, and that was evident as the plot unfolded, but he was not defined by his intimate relationship. Instead, Beschler portrayed Grady as a man of determination, strength and perseverance, even as he was losing himself to neurosis and mental torment.
In his first featured role, David Bonner provides a strong and fearless performance as Beetle Hobbs. The devious character is contradictory to Bonner's boyish looks, but his charm and style provide an instant uneasiness that is felt from the first scene.
The film is not without its faults. The scoring stands out only because it clashes with major plot points. The storyline is somewhat rushed. The cuts sometimes feel jumpy, but they smooth out after the first 20 minutes or so.
Overall, the film cast and crew should be commended for putting together such a quality film on a very low budget and a tight timeframe. The actors, many appearing for the first time on film, gave the audience a wonderfully enjoyable and thrilling ride.
These days, "independent" films tend to be as mass marketed and hyped
as their Hollywood counterparts. True independent films, that is to
say, works by directors who are trying to establish their own art, has
almost fallen by the wayside. When was the last time you saw a film
like Richard Linklater's Slacker? No, not a film that has a similar set
up, but a film that was made by someone trying out the medium for the
first time, essentially making the film with his friends, and seeing
what worked and what did not? I say this because Flight of the Cardinal
is one of those independent films. It is not perfect. But then, it was
never going to be. What it is is a very competent thriller that shows
what skills director Robert Gaston possesses.
The film revolves around Grady Wilson (Ross Beschler), a former aspiring actor, trying to open a lodge in the North Carolina mountains. His only staff member is a young man named Beetle Hobbs (David Bonner), a young man who has been living in the town all of his life. One weekend, Grady's former agent Karen (Claire Bowerman) and his boyfriend Andy (Matthew Montgomery) come to see him. Grady begins acting strangely, and Beetle uses the opportunity to destroy Grady's reputation...and possibly his life.
Ken Hanke once wrote that people always start their careers imitating the films that they admire. If that is the case, then Gaston must be an enormous fan of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. The film explores many of the same themes (sans the extreme violence) including outsiders coming into a new culture and a meek man who suddenly gains the power to stand up for himself.
Now, the film is not as polished as Straw Dogs. But then, that is the equivalent of saying that an art student in college does not produce works at the same level as Matisse. Gaston has managed to get most of those themes right without being demeaning to the subjects or the areas he is talking about. For the most part, every character is a fine person, but possesses flaws. It is never stated that Grady is better or worse than anyone else, which is vital to make the film work.
Now, if the film had made Grady a perfect figure, the film could have been another work to divide the "hip, cool" audience with the rest of America. The term "fly over country" is one that is getting rather tiring. Yes, it has been used before for good ends, but I cannot remember the last time it felt fresh. Yes, I know that it would have been easy to make the film a parable about how the "evil" south needs to adapt to the "modern" views of New York City and other such places.
But it also would have been thematically disastrous. Many filmmakers have already explored that theme, for one. For another, it would have made it far too easy to empathize with Beetle. Who would not view Grady as smug if he acted with feelings of superiority to everyone else? Gaston did the right thing by focusing on the characters and their interactions with each other.
The actors really make the work stand out. Each character needed to be a well rounded figure, and they succeeded. No one is a stereotype, and everyone acts in the way that they should in this situation. Ross Beschler, in particular, deserves mention. He plays a whole range of Gradys, from the emotionally destroyed Grady to the Grady finally taking charge with his situation. So dramatic are the divisions that it is almost as though these moods are completely separate parts of his psyche. Again, it reminds me of the range Dustin Hoffman had to play in Straw Dogs. Luckily, Grady's range does make somewhat more sense. His end is one of some hope, unlike Straw Dogs' bleakness.
Now, there is a major flaw in the film, and I feel that I must address it: the characterization of Beetle Hobbs. Now, Bonner gave a fine performance, but I was left confused as to what purpose the character served. At certain points in the film, he seemed to be a man who hates homosexuals for religious reasons. Other times, he is just envious of Grady and wants the success he has. Still at other times, he is an all purpose psychopath. Maybe this was done to give the character more depth, but the result was that the motivations were difficult to follow. Considering that Beetle is the primary villain, this becomes rather important. Better would have been maybe to keep Beetle's motives hidden and remove some of the exposition surrounding it.
This will probably be the most obscure film I review all year. I have a feeling it will become important at some point in the future. Gaston is going places; mark my words.
"Flight of the Cardinal"
A Weekend at the Lodge
Beetle Hobbs (David J. Bonner) lives is a small town that is very confining and he wants out. When he meets Grady Wilson (Ross Beschler), he sees a chance to get away. Grady has movied to the Smoky Mountains to run a resort and Beetle gets a job working for him. Robert Gatson takes us through a suspenseful experience as the film keeps us on the edge of our seats. There is more than suspensethere is comedy and drama as well, fine performances, beautiful cinematography and a wonderfully literate screenplay. Past meets present and futures are at risk and a group of friends come together for a weekend at Grady's lodge. Grady decided to give his life a new start by taking over the lodge. His boyfriend, Andy (Matthew Montgomery in yet another excellent performance), is coming to visit for the weekend along with two other friends, Karen and Rye. Grady has plans to ask Andy to marry him but tensions come along with the guests and the weekend turns out not to be what was expected. When the group realizes that there is someone else staying at the lodge this weekendBeetle, a small time drug dealer who is now homeless and Grady allows him to stay in exchange fkor a shift's work. Beetle has a plan and as we learn of Grady's past, Beetle begins to develop an idea which he can use. Gaston both wrote and directed the film and he gives us a treat. I love the way things slowly come to light, bit by bit and the same is true of the way we get to know the characters, bit by bit. This is an amazing experience in filmmaking and while the film will leave you shaken, it also leaves you with a sense of having seen something really worthwhile. Beetle was able to cash in on the fact that Grady acted strangely when his guests come to visit. As Grady's character falls apart, Beetle's solidifies and this is the emphasis of the film. Gaston concentrates on his characters, all of whom turn in excellent performances. I think the fact that we really never get to know how Beetle feels about anything adds a great deal of mystery to the film. I love a film that leaves me thinking and that is what happens here. The fact that Beetle is a character that is both weak and strong allows him to remain an enigma long after the film is over.
"Flight of the Cardinal" was one of the best movies I have seen in the
film festival circuit in awhile complete with all the pickings of a
great, suspenseful plot wrapped up nicely with an important message.
Robert Gaston creates a thrilling, suspenseful world that had me
gripping for more by the time it reached its third act. There is
something for everyone in this film: suspense, drama, and even some
comedy. People in my theater were gasping and laughing throughout the
film, which, to me, speaks to the breadth of talent showcased by the
actors in the film, especially in regards to David J Bonner. It also
features some great shots of the beautiful North Carolina scenery that
personally made me want to go see the area for myself. It was also
refreshing to see some new actors in a gay film, regardless of what
their sexuality may actually be, which brings up another great point
about this film.
Despite not being completely concerned with the sexuality of the main character (Grady), I think that this is a film that gay film festival circuit goers (including myself) found refreshing; it's rare to see a film in that circuit these days with the strong potential of going mainstream. I believe that those involved with this film deserve some applause for taking the risk of doing this and succeeding at it wildly.
Another really pleasing thing about the film is its great use of dramatic irony - something that we really don't see much of these days. Despite the fact that we, the audience, are greatly aware of Beetle's (played by Bonner) foul intentions, we are forced to watch Grady (played by Beschler) and the rest of his friends at the lodge continue to place themselves in harm's way as they are led down a dangerous path due to Beetle's powerful charisma. All of this is creatively played out throughout the first two acts until we reach the high-pitched climax at the end of an exciting story.
I highly recommend watching this film if you have the opportunity to! I'm personally looking forward to seeing it again at an upcoming festival and hope to see it available to purchase soon! I also can't wait to see more from the writer and the entire cast!!!!
Robert Gaston's latest film is one of the best movies I have seen on
the festival circuit for quite some time. An amazing character study
and very tense thriller where everyone has an agenda and none of them
A stand out cast led by David J. Bonner and Ross Beschler immediately draw you into an an intriguing story full of mistrust, backstabbing, and perhaps even murder.
The protagonist, Beetle, drives the story and the hero, Grady, into a space I have never seen on film but have witnessed in real life. Everyone I know has a "Beetle".
See this film.
Robert Gaston's feature is one fun ride. Having screened it in NC I found it a good grab on the slice of life that might be in a town like Ashville. Not a truly gay film it is more a thriller that happens to have gay characters. While not exploited to the max, the scenery is wonderful, anyone who lives or has grown up in the NC area will appreciate the out of doors images. Gaston refuses to give into conventional gay themed movie formula and uses his stars to his advantage. I hope to see this film play around the film festival circuit. It deserved viewing by as many eyes as possible. Will keep you guessing until the end. Fun all around!
I was recently viewed this film at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in North Carolina, and I am still scratching my head why this movie was even screened for the GLBTQ festival. The main character, Grady, and his ex-partner, Andy, are the only gay characters of the story. The plot does not revolve around issues important to homosexuals. In addition, there is an unnecessary frontal nude scene of Beetle that makes lesbians rejoice for their life choices and gays question their sexuality. This movie was shot in the mountains of North Carolina, which sounds as if it would have great cinematic views, but, again, this movie disappoints. Rarely are scene shot outside the log cabin, and when outdoor shots were filmed, they were taken from the dash of a moving vehicle that induced vertigo. Not to harangue this movie further, but I feel it is critical to talk about the plot. In concept, this plot has great potential, but sadly wan't fully realized during production. I feel that the actors tried their best to make the film palatable, but the dialog is odd. The best evidence for this is when audience members laughed at the film when the director is clearly trying to be have a serious moment. Beetle is clearly a manipulator of the gathering of friends that have collected in Grady's lodge. The actor did an OK job, but the audience is left wondering why Beetle has chosen these people and what he ultimately plans to gain from these events. I have to wonder if even the actor that played Beetle knew. I am extremely confused from people exclaiming the brilliance of this movie. Perhaps these are relatives of the director or persons that stand to gain money from the success of this movie. When I saw the first review that gave 9 out of 10 stars, I felt the review was misplaced for some other movie. Simply put, this movie should not be viewed by anyone who does not wish to waste several hours of your day.
I saw this as the closing film of QFest (which is the LGBT film festival in Philadelphia). The film is a disappointment. It's a thriller set in the mountains of North Carolina. I think this was a first time director which you would normally excuse but QFest also showed Undertow which was shot by a first time director as well that won 2 awards at QFest (including audience favorite) in addition to an award at Sundance. It's like a Porsche trying to drag race a Neon. QFest was extremely stupid for showing this as a closing night film instead of Undertow. I think the actors tried their best at what they were given but the movie didn't flow or fully explain Beattle and why he did what he did. I am not sure why Robert Gaston used Matthew Montgomery in the film given he is simply a mediocre actor and his facial expressions and acting made me want to laugh in the serious parts. This film is not worth paying full price or matinée at all. If you have to see it, get it on Netflix. Don't rent the DVD or else you will be wasting your money.
This was one of the films at the 2010 NC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
that I looked forward to seeing--a LGBT mystery-thriller set in the NC
mountains sounded like it had plenty to offer--but was disappointed
with the results.
First, neither I nor the friends I saw this with can figure out why this was considered a LGBT film. The main character is gay, but aside from that there's nothing really else to set this movie aside from the mainstream.
Second, there was a decent story somewhere under all the poor acting and odd dialog. There were people in the audience laughing at what I can only conjecture was the sheer ridiculousness of some of the scenes. And the characters themselves... most were so flat it bordered on hilarity, while Beetle was so unctuous that it was simply over-the-top.
Lastly, having been to the beautiful North Carolina mountains, it seemed like none of the cinematography took advantage of the scenery. That's a shame, because it could have added a lot more to this film.
I have to agree with other posters, this movie was not worth the price of admission.
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