It's not Brick, but that's not to say it isn't well made and engaging
If you are going to make a film that takes modern day students and places them into the noir genre complete with tough dialogue without a single 'like', 'dude' or 'totes', then you're going to have to deal with the fat that your film is going to be compared to Brick. In the case of Straight Down Low, this is not a comparison that it can totally stand up to (perhaps to do with the difference between the resources of a short and a feature) but it does more than well enough to work on its own, even if it never stops feeling familiar.
The plot is well scripted and takes in a lot of themes – some of which are obvious (race) while others perhaps less so. I enjoyed the pace of the dialogue and the manner in which the mystery plays out, but I think the film fell a little short in making it totally convince. I'm not sure I totally felt the danger of these murderers, the rush of time closing in etc – the film seemed a little too slick and smart and maybe could have done these aspects better to up the tension at times, but it does still work. It works as a genre piece and it is fun to see it in a different context. Stylistically the film looks good, with clear images in the darkness (internal or external) without losing that sense of it being dark. The music is not quite as on point, with it being a little on the heavy side at times, but mostly it is what it needs to be.
The performances are mostly good – keeping what makes them modern characters but yet also having that tougher, noiresque dialogue and delivery to match the film's tone. I enjoyed Sanders in the lead a lot, while Watts was also good; the others perhaps were not quite as strong but did what was asked of them. For sure it is very much in the shadow of Brick in terms of what it does and how it does it, and it doesn't ever totally shake that off, but this is not to say that it isn't an engaging and professionally made film – which it is.
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