Ten 'til Noon (2006) / Thriller

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for sexuality, nudity, violence, and language
Running Time: 83 min.

Cast: Rick D. Wasserman, Rayne Guest, George Williams, Jenya Lano, Thomas Kopache, Alfonso Freeman, Jason Hamer, Daniel Hagen, Dylan Kussman, Jennifer Hill, Daniel Nathan Spector, Paul J. Alessi, Erin Stutland
Director: Scott Storm
Screenplay: Paul Osborne

Although similar to other comic thrillers to come out in the Tarantino era of crime fiction, Ten 'til Noon succeeds by being entertaining and clever enough to merit viewing, even if it does constantly remind you of other films you've seen in recent years.  While it does have a different narrative structure than other films -- replaying the same ten minute period from the standpoint of ten different characters -- the fact that it has a fragmented, non-linear structure is nothing new. Pulp Fiction, Memento, Amores Perros, and others paved the way for this new era of finding a structure gimmick to tell an old-fashioned crime story.  If you're going to lift ideas, at least the team of director Scott Storm and screenwriter Paul Osborne have lifted from the best, and the fact that they are able to find a new wrinkle in the increasingly-crowded mini-genre (some have dubbed it "neo-noir") and succeed in delivering humor, intrigue and intelligence is worthy of praise and a viewing for those who thoroughly enjoy the previously mentioned films.

The ten-minute span, as you can guess from the film's title, takes place from 11:50am until noon, where a series of shifty alliances leads up to the hit placed on a wealthy businessman named Larry Taylor (Wasserman).  Larry is rudely awoken by two hit men, Mr. Jay (Freeman, Morgan's real-life son) and Miss Milch (Lano, Ghost Rock), who proceed to tell him of his upcoming death at the stroke of noon, but also that his philandering wife is having an affair and may have something to do with it.  Noon does arrive (as well as death), and the story turns back the clock to 11:50 again, this time from the point of view of Larry's wife, Becky (Guest, Night of the Chupacabra), in a motel room engaging in coital activities with an aspiring young actor.  As each ten-minute segment passes, we meet another character involved in setting up the hit on Larry Taylor, with each segment revealing a new piece of an intricate puzzle, placing that which we think we know from the get-go in doubt.

I should point out to those that are interested in Ten 'til Noon that it is a low budget, independent feature, not exactly blessed with the finest actors in the industry (although solid performances do emerge), the best cinematography (a mostly grainy affair), or the catchiest soundtrack (Joe Kraemer's score is still spot-on).  It does overcome the lack of resources through a clever script by Osborne, who does manage to keep the twists and turns coming often enough for us to not lose patience, and also to inject humor, personality and panache to the characters, making them interesting to watch on their own.  Even if we've heard certain conversations before, each little twist adds a new level of nuance to phone conversations we've heard the other side to, as some characters reveal they are more than what they initially appear to be from first introductions. 

Of course, all would still be for naught if director Scott Storm weren't completely in tune with the writing, and quite meticulous in making sure that events play out in real-time with conversations happening at precise moments in the timeline.  I didn't sit with a stopwatch to make sure that certain phone calls are placed, or events happened right on the nose, but it sure seems that way as you watch it.  It helps that Storm also serves as the film's co-editor, assuring the avoidance of certain annoyance if events were not completely in synch from a time standpoint. Storm also works well with the ensemble of actors, getting each of them to set the proper tongue-in-cheek tone necessary to make each scene entertaining and edgy, with a good sense of style.  Like many independent thrillers, the results could have easily come off as too stiff, but credit Storm for constantly keeping everything moving briskly enough to not dwell on confusing plot angles or actors that don't quite nail down their parts from an emoting standpoint.

It's a bit of a shame that Ten 'til Noon isn't a major Hollywood release, as it could be a very good entry in the neo-noir genre with a higher budget and better actors in certain key roles.  As it stands, it is certainly entertaining enough to be worthwhile for people who enjoy the hit man banter of Tarantino or the twisty narrative structure of Christopher Nolan.  Despite its limited scope, it's still a fun little thriller, with enough good characterizations and clever turns of events to keep even the most savvy genre fans entertained for the duration.

One last note for those who decide to watch it: be sure to partially stick through the end credits for a funny epilogue to the story.

 Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo