Shadowplay is a look at a Private Investigator searching for a kidnapped child. Playing out in the underworld of Kuala Lampur, our PI hero moves through a world that reminds him too much of his troubled past. Playing off many classic 80s hat tips, the film moves slowly to reconciling what makes its hero function.
Filmmaker Tony Pietra Arjuna has made something here that tip-toes around David Lynch territory and into something like a modern throwback. But, then we meet the Baron Samedi style mythical underworld figure. From there, it’s an onslaught of supporting characters that even break my love of worldbuilding. But, the question remains…was it good?
Films like this are why I’m glad that indie filmmakers reach out to me. Years ago, I put out a call for these kinds of productions to be directly submitted to us. It was an effort to be a good steward fighting against the gatekeeping of Rotting Tomatoes. However, I doesn’t correct many of the film’s flaws.
I don’t need my hand held during a film, but often I will need to know that the plot is still there. Whether it’s a major motion picture or a stunning new vision from the indie underground, plot matters. Shadowplay has mood, atmosphere and characters to spare. Yet, when I watched the film again, I was left wondering why I couldn’t get a single answer about anything going on.
There are attempts to evoke everything from Angel Heart to Blade Runner at times. Yet, all the while, I’m wondering when the film will make a stand on its own. The first 30 minutes provided a thrilling deep dive into an unknown world. However, the rest of the movie kept tripping headlong into the mystery without so much as a heads-up on anything.
So much of the movie relies on the nature of the detective story being bulky and unwieldy. However, that doesn’t make a story that appealing to a broad audience. Anton Shaw is a fascinating lead, but I don’t need to identify with the minutia of his work. Give me a private investigator that inspires confidence rather than confusion. Noble effort, but lacks in many areas that help narrative flow.
Shadowplay arrives on DVD courtesy of Random Media.