Drop Box (2006) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably R for language and some sexual dialogue
Running Time: 77 min.

Cast: David Cormican, Rachel Sehl, Cyprianos Carasoulos, Bob Ormerod, Neil Whitely, Cheryl Meyer, Mary Kitchen, David M. Desjardine, J.P. Azada
Director: Anesty Carasoulos, Spiros Carasoulos
Screenplay: Anesty Carasoulos, Spiros Carasoulos
Review published July 26, 2006

We've all heard of celebrity sex tapes that have been made, especially those that have been leaked to the public, such as the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee video and the one featuring Paris Hilton.  Not only did the release of these tapes to the public become international celebrity news, they also meant a great deal of money and notoriety to the people possessing the original tapes.  If found, there is little incentive in giving back the tape to the celebrity, not only because of the novelty, but that it can be sold for a fortune, depending on the popularity of the participants.  The plot of Drop Box takes this sex tape phenomenon and adds the additional twist of it being accidentally dropped in a return box at the local video store. 

In the film, Tom (Cormican) is a burnt-out video store clerk who spends his entire days dealing with rude or negligent customers.  He hasn't received a raise in forever and he's becoming surlier and less tolerant of his customers selfish behavior.  All he can do to cope is express his annoyance at hearing the same old excuses by mocking them, messing with their account, or making them pay their late fees. 

When his latest customer (Sehl) seems a bit tenacious about getting a copy of Mariah Carey's Glitter back, he's going to give her a hard time about it, not only because he can't stand people renting stupid movies, but she's also being overly pushy about it.  When he won't give it back by conventional means, the young woman finally comes clean by revealing that she is a world-famous pop star named Mindy, and that she has accidentally returned the wrong tape in the video store drop box.  Instead of Glitter, Mindy has mistakenly returned a personal videotape of her engaged in a sex tryst with two other people, and if the tape were to leak out, it might ruin her multimillion dollar career.  Unfortunately for Mindy, Tom only finds great amusement in her story, refusing to give her the tape back without earning it first, as she must jump over increasingly difficult hurdles in order to keep the video from being seen by the public eye.

Based strictly on outside appearances, Drop Box is a film that looks like it has an impossible task in delivering entertainment value.  It is a very low-budget independent film, made cheaply in a one room setting, featuring actors with little or no experience, written and directed by people also with little or no experience.  The main premise is difficult to imagine setting a whole movie around, probably feeling more at home as a play at the local theater than as a feature film. 

Yet, for all that the film has going against it, it is surprisingly engaging.  Much like Kevin Smith was able to do with his breakthrough independent film, Clerks, writer-directors Anesty and Spiros Carasoulos are able to take this small scale premise and make it work, primarily through a fun sense about itself and enjoyable distractions fueled by constant interruptions by humorous customers.  Although a few of the supporting actors are obviously not professionals, the lead actors, Cormican and Sehl, are cast well and are quite charismatic in their respective roles, even though the characters themselves aren't supposed to be altogether likeable. 

Given the limited resources they had to work with, the quality of the direction and editing is also impressive, with very good use of limited space, good pacing, and even some clever moments of style.  There is also a good ear for dialogue in the film, with interesting side conversations about movies and the rather thankless nature of being a video store clerk that smacks of reality.  It's amusing to see the excuses people come up with to get out of their late fees, try to request porn in a low key fashion, or try to push their way into getting what they want.  While most video store clerks would probably let some of this behavior slide, it's fun to see, a la Randal in Clerks, the customers get their just desserts from the ornery clerk too disinterested in repeat business to care.

If Clerks proved to the cinematic world that anyone with a video camera and a good imagination can make a worthwhile movie, Drop Box reaffirms it.  With extremely limited resources, Anesty and Spiros Carasoulos are able to make a fun, energetic diversion without going for crass, gross-out humor and ripping off dialogue from other well-known films.  With the initial talent shown by these amateur filmmakers, it's not too much of a stretch to think that they would continue to make even better films in the future if they can get the budget from a studio willing to give some talented up-and-coming filmmakers a break.  If that happens, it may not be long before real-world video store clerks are handing over copies of their future films and imposing late fees of their own.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo