Oof. This is bad. Within the first few minutes of watching “[Cargo]” one can tell the quality just isn’t there, and that inkling is only confirmed as the film goes on. It’s perhaps uncouth to come out and state right off the bat, but there’s just nothing positive to say about this movie.
From first time director and writer James Dylan it’s a thriller (or at least would like to be one) set in a confined space, a la “Buried” and “Locke.’ The story begins with wealthy businessman Anthony Peterson, Ron Thompson (“American Me”, Baretta (TV)”), waking up in a metal storage container and we remain there for the duration.
He’s been left with only a phone and a voice on the other end informs him that he, along with his wife (whose being held elsewhere), have been kidnapped and will be killed if he cannot secure a ten million dollar ransom in the next 24 hours. His scramble to gather the money via calls to employees and estranged family make up the movie, in what is essentially a one-man show.
Now, one-man (or woman) shows can be really great and intriguing. They can be remarkably funny or moving, and full of great characters. But regardless of genre they need at least two components to succeed: a talented performer and a brilliant script.
This, unfortunately, is missing both. And it’s made worse by the fact that this isn’t a live stage play, it’s cinema, a uniquely visual medium, and one that’s clearly being wasted here no matter how much they swirl the camera around Thompson during a call.
Given that he’s our only onscreen actor and the entirety of the film takes places in one incredibly bland and small setting, the bulk of the film really rests on Thompson’s shoulders. Too bad he immediately crumbles under that weight. He’s laughably bad, overacting to ridiculous degree. Him halfheartedly wildly “banging” on the metal walls early on is one of the unintentionally funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.
There’s not a genuine moment from him. Given that the movie’s producers only really only needed to cast one good actor here I have to wonder how they walked away with quite literally the worst choice. Is he someone’s uncle? Did he put money into the film and they owed the guy a favor? I’m honestly curious
But then again it’s really not fair to blame the film’s failings entirely on Thompson. Choosing to set the film in one small space has the possibility to create tension and inspire feelings of claustrophobia and anxiety. And I’m sure that was at least writer-director Dylan’s intention. But instead it just comes across as boring visually, and even worse, cheap.
One can’t help but feel this gimmick was conceived of and carried out in this manner merely to save money. It wouldn’t be so bad though if the writing was better. The dialogue feels incredibly immature, and every relationship and action here seems insincere. The tone haphazardly attempts to jump from intense and dark to playfully funny, though actually is never either.
I also want to take a second to remark about something regarding this script (though this is sadly far from the only film with this problem). It’s a prime example of how a movie can be casually sexist without even meaning to be. I think anyone involved in this would be shocked and offended if you told them you found it misogynistic.
But, while watching it, I can’t help but notice how the women here are only mentioned incidentally in relation to the men and, when they are, they’re referred to as bitches, c*nts and trophy wives. Not only that, but they’re threatened graphically with rape and violence (only with the aim of hurting of a man) and treated as totally disposable. It’s disgusting, and what’s worse is that it so clearly wasn’t even something the writer considered as problematic.
Due to the lack of big names behind the scenes and in front of the (or just heard on) camera, the little promotion and press it’s received, and the largely direct to dvd distribution status “[Cargo]” is receiving, this is a film that seems likely to quickly fall into obscurity, and despite my interest in championing independent films and shining a light on new up and coming filmmakers, I’m happy to let this one remain there.