Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Review: Sword of Hearts

Sword of Hearts
Writer/Dir: David Schmidt

I never got over my first eyeful of Errol Flynn in those green tights. So what if I first saw him in a Bugs Bunny cartoon? It was still love at first sight. Nothing much has changed since then: give me a good sword fight and I’m a pushover (add Johnny Depp and I’ll never leave).*

SOH has just that –- not to mention an eager cast, a hearty story and bucketloads of fun. Any one who’s seen my recent film reviews knows that I’m of the opinion that indy films are the only hope in the bloated industry today. Here’s a good example why: passion, fun, heart –- and here’s a novelty, a script. No fooling! An actual story with -- get this -- characters! Who’d have thunk it -- or that that and a shoestring budget will actually produce a movie not only worth watching, but enjoyable.

With a wink and a nod to every adventure flick you’ve ever loved (everything from Princess Bride to Indiana Jones), the story rolls along with intrigue, quests and hidden identities. We start with the story of the recently arrested thief, Nola Fletcher (Kathrynne Ann Rosen), who proves a resourceful and believable heroine. Her quick-witted escape from the guards leads to a fortuitous meeting with the unpredictable Geoffrey Pierce (Travis Estes) who shows his ability to think on his feet. The characters are the heart of the film, and the actors welcome us right in. Rosen, especially, must wield the muted emotions hidden from other characters, but revealed to the audience, and does so with a wining vulnerability behind her tough thief’s exterior. Estes gives Geoffrey a (nigh on Dreyfuss-esque) roguishness, but lets slip the wounded heart beneath the bravado when the right moments come -- and of course they do, for this is romance as well as adventure. There’s his lost love Grace Durant (Amy Harmon) and her now husband Tristan (Zach Thomas -- who has just a touch of Rupert Everett) and a secret no one wants let out –- or do they? Alliances shift, betrayals come -- but wonder of wonders, it all makes sense (are you, too, tired of the “twist from nowhere?”).

The rest of the cast, too, is competent and attentive. They’re attractive but individuals; you can remember who’s who. Admit it; how many films have you watched lately where you can’t tell one blandly beautiful actor from another ("I thought she was dead -- oh, now she is"). When will American filmmakers get over their hatred of imperfection (exception: men over 30. Or 50. Or 70: Sean Connery is not sexy. He is old.)? One thing British tv and indy films have in common -- real people.

And the best part –- those well choreographed fights. Films with multi-million dollar budgets have not worked half so hard to do it well. And they do it well -- the direction is good throughout, sensitive to the intimate dialogues, opening up to show a grand scale of place when needed. But the fights! Timing is the hardest part and the camera-work, choreography and editing work superbly to give credible and exciting fights (with or without swords).

So buy the DVD already and feed an indy filmmaker. You owe yourself a good time.

*Does not apply to Don Juan DeMarco.

No comments: