Empty Trash (2010) – By Duane L. Martin

Mark (Loren Farrand) can’t seem to catch a break.  He’s a young ex-con who takes a job as a janitor, but when he decides to screw off at work and gets caught on video, his company loses their $30,000 contract, which pisses his boss Don (Wade Dienert) off to no end.  Rather than firing Mark however, he gives him a chance to make things right.  He wants Mark to rob a video store, clean out the register and the safe and bring him back the money.  Mark reluctantly agrees and calls an old criminal acquaintance, asking him to set him up with a couple of thug types he can use for backup in the robbery.  He can’t afford top of the line talent, but the guy offers him a couple of fresh, raw thugs that lack experience, but they can hold a gun and look tough.  Mark accepts and the three of them plan the robbery.  During the robbery, in which no one was supposed to shoot anyone, one of the thugs, shoots the clerk, Mark shoots him, the other thug runs away, Mark goes and shoots the guy who hooked him up with the thugs, gets picked up by his parole officer who turns out to be a sadistic cannibal apparently and is working with Don.  Things go downhill from there for Mark unfortunately.

Empty Trash is a 26 minute short from director J.L. Sosa, and while it succeeds quite well  from a technical film making standpoint, it unfortunately fails completely at the story level.

From a story standpoint, the film is only believable up to the point where Mark’s boss asks him to rob the video store to get revenge or to make up for the money he cost the company or whatever.  The motive isn’t explained and isn’t clear at all.  That was fine, as the motive wasn’t horribly important.  Still, it would have been nice to have had it explained.  After that, the whole thing just derailed and kept getting less and less believable as it went along.  First off, Don assures Mark that the guy who runs the video store isn’t armed and that it’ll be a piece of cake to rob the place, yet Mark feels the need to call in two other thugs to back him up.  Why?  If the guy’s not armed, he should have been able to go in, get the money at gunpoint and then leave with it.  No problem at all.  Instead, he hires these two idiots, one of whom shoots the clerk for no reason whatsoever.  I mean, zero reason.  Mark then shoots the guy that did it, which didn’t make much sense either.  What made even less sense is that when they went in to rob the place, they didn’t even bother putting on ski masks or anything to hide their identities.  There were supposedly no surveillance cameras in the place, but the intention was to rob the place, not kill the guy, so not wearing masks totally left them open to being identified.  They didn’t even wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints.

Then Mark ends up in some apartment building or something and runs into the guy he hired the thugs from.  The guy knew what happened from the other thug who had run away, and was ready to shoot Mark in the stairwell even though it was his thug who screwed up.  That was something else that didn’t make much sense, nor did the fact that Mark even ended up where that guy was, or the fact that Mark knew the guy was there and was going to try to kill him.

Then Mark, after shooting that guy, runs outside and his parole officer just happens to drive up in a car.  How did he know Mark was even there?  It’s beyond coincidence that he’d just happen to randomly drive up right there, right then in the middle of the night.  Mark wants him to take him to the police station because he’ll be safer in jail than out of it, but the guy jolts him with a stun gun and takes him back to Don, because apparently they’re working together.  From there, his parole officer, who had up to now seemed like a normal guy who actually cared about Mark being out of jail and succeeding in life, has Mark tied to a chair and they proceed to beat and torture him, the P.O. even biting a chunk out of Mark’s cheek and eating it.  Then, after driving him around in a van for whatever reason, right before they finally do kill him, the P.O. decides he needs to be circumcised first, because apparently he’s some kind of a religious nut in addition to being a cannibal and a sadist.  And yes, he eats that too.

The story was just full of nonsensical plot twists and simply didn’t work.  However, as I said, from a technical film making standpoint, the film was actually quite well made.  It was well edited, the lighting was good, even in the dark scenes, the camera shots were all nicely set up and the sound was clear and understandable.  All the technical skills were there to make a good film, and with a proper and believable story, this could have been a really great piece of work.  Sadly it didn’t have that, so unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one.  If you get a chance to see it in passing at a film festival or whatever, go ahead and see it.  I wouldn’t say avoid it all together, but don’t go into it expecting the story to make a whole lot of sense.

I see the potential in director J.L. Sosa’s work here definitely and I think he has some great films ahead of him, and I’m sure he’ll develop his screenwriting abilities more and more in his future films.

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