US / 91 minutes / color with momentary bw / Somerville, Gravitas Dir & Pr & Scr: Chris St. Croix Cine: Matthew Dyer, Lou Chanatry, David Trenkle Cast: Lynnette Cole, Jennifer Spriggs, Amanda Bailey, Jennifer Kennard, Ryan C. King, Chris Cavolo, Spencer Moore, Brooke Sage, Eva Ramer, Tremesia Coleman, Savannah Meech, Danny Newborn, Ruth Davis.
Four young women—Heather Jackson (Kennard), Regina (Cole), Claire (Spriggs) and Nikki (Bailey)—have been best buds since childhood, when they were dubbed The Wild Bunch: we see them briefly as children, played respectively by Ramer, Coleman, Meech and Sage. The four decide to pool their resources and buy a rundown bar in a rundown area of town. In a major breach with tradition in movies with setups like this, this is not a cue for them to take their clothes off at regular intervals; in fact, those seeking nudity should seek elsewhere, because there isn’t any.
Claire (Jennifer Spriggs).
There’s a bout of simulated sex, though. Heather, always the wildest of The Wild Bunch, is highly promiscuous: “I’m a guy with tits,” she describes herself to the far more staid and stable Claire. At the party the quartet throw the night before their bar’s reopening, Heather picks out a studly type (King) from across the room and, the next he knows, he’s having noisy sex in the bathroom with her. In a nice touch—and a very realistic one, as I can recall from my foolish youth—at the exuberant conclusion of proceedings the people painfully queuing outside give the couple a sardonic round of applause.
Heather (Jennifer Kennard), the wildest of the bunch.
The next day Heather is first to arrive at the bar, and she sets about doing some stocktaking. She’s startled in the stockroom by her partner from the night before, who’s snuck into the building through a door she left open. He’s eager to continue the acquaintanceship; she explains, not with any particular effort at tact, that she isn’t—all she wanted was a quick bang and he happened to be there. He makes to leave in as dignified a manner as he can, and she thinks that’s the end of it.
Wrong. Moments later he jumps her and sets about trying to rape her. Luckily she gets free, leaving him locked in the stockroom.
Regina (Lynnette Cole).
Soon after, the other three arrive. They’re appalled. They are of course absolutely adamant that no one ever “deserves” to be raped. At the same time, they’re critical of Heather, pointing out to her that, with the way she’s been behaving these past few years, it was only a matter of time before trouble of some sort came her way. This is a difficult point to argue without raising hackles, but the screenplay and the cast handle it very adroitly. Harshest on Heather is Nikki, the group’s natural leader: how can they call the cops, she argues, when the outcome of doing so would be the bar being forever stigmatized as that place where a woman was near-raped on its opening night? The notion of not telling the cops horrifies the sensible Claire, whose steady boyfriend David (Cavolo) actually is a cop. What are their other options?
Nikki (Amanda Bailey), the natural leader.
It’s Nikki who ups the stakes when the captive briefly escapes: she shoots him in the rear end, although not before he’s had time to convince us—describing the women as bitches and explaining what he plans to do to them when able—that he’s the kind of scumbag who gives scumbags a bad name. The fact that he proves to be Anthony Zeffirelli, son of a Mob lawyer, renders the stakes even higher.
Matters are yet further complicated by the arrival of delivery boy and small-time pot-peddler Dizzy (Moore), whose contempt for the would-be rapist is if anything even more strident than that of The Wild Bunch—”Basically you’re a dying species. A fucking genetic mistake”—and soon after of David, whose dilemma is perhaps the most profound of anyone’s . . .
Anthony (Ryan C. King). “How can somebody be so dead inside?” he’s asked. In a strong performance, King manages to exude menace even when his character is bound and gagged.
This is an indie movie made on a limited budget and to a certain extent this shows, but the affair is sufficiently intelligent that it hardly matters. The debate among the four principals as to what’s the best thing to do with Anthony—put a bullet through his head and dump him in a river, or hand him over to the cops, or try to get a promise out of him that they’ll never see him again?—raises larger issues as to the way in which we treat our most vicious criminals, and the morality (or lack of it) underpinning such courses of action. As a counterpoint, not even David has any interest in condemning Dizzy for the little bag of pot he carries. A clear distinction is being made between the two types of criminality. Similarly, while the other three make it plain to Heather that they think her fuck-’em-and-dump-’em lifestyle is idiotic, they’re equally explicit that there’s nothing morally objectionable about at least the promiscuity part of this. Overall, then, what we have here is a debate about morals and ethics that’s neatly shoehorned into the form of a noirish crime movie.
David (Chris Cavolo) and Dizzy (Spencer Moore) likewise become hostages.
The four principals are very lovely; Cole, for example, is a former Miss USA. Coupled with the setup of “Let’s open a bar together!”—almost as sure a sign of impending garbage as “Let’s put on a show!”—this cleverly lulls us into expecting a piece of mindless fluff. Instead we get something that alternatively could very well have been done as a thought-provoking stage play. Shattered is by no means a perfect movie but it has a thoughtful, ambitious, imaginative screenplay, some fine cinematography and some good performances, especially from Spriggs, Kennard, King, Moore and Cavolo. It’s one of those low-budget indie movies that shouldn’t be allowed to slip entirely off the radar.
On Amazon.com: Shattered [DVD]