Drown (2010) – By Cary Conley

Drown is a 35-minute film short that is intended to be a hard-nosed cop drama.  All the trappings of that genre are evident:  there is the rough-and-tumble police sergeant; the rookie cop; the drug kingpin; the crooked politician willing to do anything to obtain office; and the cop turned bad.

An undercover cop has gone rogue, lured by the money and power of the illicit drug trade and bitter that all his hard work has led to the breakup of his family and no recognition by the force.  He ratted another undercover cop out, leading to the good cop’s death.

A rookie cop is chosen to go undercover to root out the bad cop, basically because he’s so new he doesn’t look, talk or act like a policeman.  Along the way there is a subplot with a beautiful politician who has eyes on the California governor’s mansion.

New writer/director Matthew S. Robinson has created a stereotypical genre piece using all the conventions we are used to seeing in most cop/drug kingpin dramas.  I enjoyed his take on those stereotypes and his sense of humor in presenting them.  Of particular note was the actor who played the police sergeant as well as the actor who portrayed the drug kingpin—they played their roles with obvious relish and nailed them perfectly.

I don’t really have a problem with Mr. Robinson’s direction or with the storyline.  The plot seemed entertaining enough.  The major problem that impeded my enjoyment of the film was the technical flaws.  Lighting was a major problem as the film jumps from bright to dark clips even in the same scene.   Some scenes were overly bright while others were so dark as to obscure the action.  Windows seemed to be a major problem.  Either the window blinds were left open causing overexposure in one part of the room or the blinds were closed, creating characters talking and moving about in almost total darkness.

Sound also presented a major problem.  Again, the sound quality—as did the picture contrast—changed from one cut to another in the same scene.  Many characters were too loud while others in the scene couldn’t be heard at all.  And ambient sound, which I believe is the nemesis of all indie directors, created havoc in some scenes, with street traffic, windy conditions and crashing ocean waves drowning out almost all dialogue in several scenes.   The added sound effects such as gunshots were also loud, literally lifting me out of my seat in surprise when they occurred, but that could have been because I had to continually adjust the volume on my TV to try and catch parts of the dialogue.

So while the technical difficulties sometimes got in the way of my enjoying the action of the film, the good news is that technical difficulties can be overcome.  Mr. Robinson understands plotting, the use of various camera angles, and character direction, all of which are much more difficult to learn than the more technical aspects of filmmaking.  Anytime someone jumps in headfirst to make a film, problems will occur, but I believe the learning curve is steep and I know Mr. Robinson took away a great number of lessons while making this film.  Kudos to him for getting his hands dirty and completing his vision.  I look forward to seeing more work from him in the future.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out it’s Facebook page here.