Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief (2014) – By Josh Samford

Independent films are often sadly predictable. So often you’ll run into the same genre movies over and over again, with young filmmakers doing their best to try and do what their favorite films did, but on a micro-budget. Unfortunately, dramas and thrillers aren’t usually rank high on the list. Dramas, in particular, fit so well into the world of microbudget movies, but unfortunately they also require very sharp writing and solid performances. These movies put a spotlight on those elements and can make things difficult for inexperienced filmmakers. Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, no matter what else can be said about the movie, casts aside all worries and jumps head first into the dramatic world. The short-feature goes for drama, mystery, and even hints at being a thriller on occasion. Without a doubt, this is an indie short with vision.

Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief details the erosion of a relationship. It focuses on Lana and Leonard, two twenty-somethings who have a marriage that is pretty far from ideal. Leonard is approached one day by a strange man who claims to be Lana’s first husband. When Leonard approaches her about the situation, Lana doesn’t react in a way that Leonard would expect, leading to some terrible fights. Soon after, Lana herself is approached by a woman who gives her information about Leonard that points to an extra-marital affair. As things move forward, everything becomes more and more complicated.

The movie does its best to bring to life its characters through dialogue. Certainly, this is one of the most noticeable things about the movie and is something obviously influenced by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, and David Mamet. Mamet seems to be a heavy influence here and the focus on select words within the dialogue, the way a single word from a sentence can become so much more powerful than expected, definitely seems to reflect his particular style of writing. However, the movie doesn’t just duplicate what Mamet does, as it offers its own twists due to the content of the film. Certainly, this dialogue tends to be the strongest element of the movie. Unfortunately, some of the performances are a bit over-the-top. We get some very unnatural physical acting from the leads, and although the script has a bite to it, the constant mugging sometimes detracts from this. Still, writer/director Pablo D’Stair certainly intrigues with his ability to write fresh dialogue that manages to grab the audience by the throat.

The black and white photography definitely adds a great deal to the movie. In the end, it stands out as a superfluous stylistic choice for the movie that still works incredibly well. The movie is described in its press release as a “noir,” but thankfully the filmmakers do very little to actually replicate the criminal aspects that this era of film was most known for. Instead, if one were to look at old Hollywood for an example that is similar to this film, it would be caught somewhere between Double Indemnity and perhaps the work of Douglas Sirk. Instead, with the visuals not being used to replicate a cinematic past, it provides the crew a chance to provide some very interesting visual flourishes. Often the lighting seems to bounce off of the characters in ways that create some rather poetic visuals. The film even does well when scenes scenes take place outside at night, something that is often the bane of independent films. There is a decent amount of wonderfully contrasted imagery in this movie, and it manages to give it a slightly overexposed feel that works really well for the film.

Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief is described as a “claustrophobic noir,” and although I agree with it being claustrophobic, I don’t think it fits into any particular genre of film. It is a unique drama that goes into many dark territories without ever painting a simplistic picture for the audience. While it has its negatives here and there, overall, I recommend checking it out. If interested, you can read more on the official website located here: http://pdstairfilms.wordpress.com