Fathoms Deep (2011) – By Josh Samford

What is there to a title? It is the beginning of marketing for any film, obviously. It is also where a film either immediately catches its audience, or loses them entirely. While the title Fathoms Deep may not be as alluring as something like Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key, it does grab the curiosity of its audience. After watching the film, I am still not entirely sure what this title actually means, but I do know that I like it and that it was part of what initially grabbed me about the project. The second thing that initially grabs an audience member when it comes time to pick a movie would have to be the cover art. Unfortunately, the artwork on the DVD that was sent to me didn’t rock my world. However, this could simply be temporary artwork, so there’s no need to judge too harshly. However, looking down at this DVD, I never once thought, "hey, this is going to be a fashionable and stylish movie," but looks can certainly be deceiving. Grabbing its audience right from the start, Fathoms Deep is a technically astonishing independent crime film that features both an alluring soundtrack, and a series of intensely stylish sequences crafted by someone who obviously has a deep devotion to the rhythm of cinema. Hicks and Cash are two small time hoods who are hired by crime lord "Dregs" in order to pull off a profitable heist. Unfortunately, things go bad and now these two are wanted by the mafia associates who had went into partnership with Dregs on this deal. Dregs himself apparently doesn’t blame the duo, and he sends out his trigger man Pox in order to pick the two up and bring them back without any incidents. While this trio are on their way to meet the boss, they must evade two hit men who have been dispatched by these mafiosos, and their intentions are obviously to put Hicks and Cash six feet in the ground. With the entire West Coast looking for them, will Hicks and Cash somehow manage to survive this tumultuous ordeal?

Although the film falls into many crime film cliches that were created in the initial post-Tarantino boom, the film remains incredibly well written. This tends to be the distinguishing factor between this movie and the weaker indie crime flicks that still float through my door on a monthly basis. The characters here are multidimensional, which is a real shock. More often than not, these indie crime films are filled to the brim with over-the-top Tony Montanna clones who never waver or show weakness. That attitude, of creating a superhero from a villain, didn’t even happen in Scarface itself. In its portrayal of narrative linearity, Fathoms Deep does fall into the same vein as many of the indie crime titles that have come out since Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction first hit the market. Told in a after-the-fact manner, the story jumps around and cleverly hides the introductory "job" that our characters are on the run from, and instead presents the aftermath as the main content for our film.

If the movie has any glaring weaknesses, it is in the lack of clarity that the plot sometimes develops. Throughout the first thirty minutes of the movie we follow along as both Cash and Hicks bicker back and forth while attempting to make it to a meeting. This meeting has something to do with the previously mentioned “job,” but the audience is given few clues as to what actually happened. We don’t really know any of the important expositional data during these introductory moments, and that can be slightly frustrating for the audience. We don’t know who these guys are, or why we follow them in the first place. In actuality, we don’t even understand why these two are arguing so much. It is understood that the story is told in a non-linear fashion without much in the way of detailed explanations, and the audience trusts that our questions will eventually be answered, but for a long period of time we are stuck wondering just what is really going on. I will give the film credit in that it answers the majority of our questions, but it requires some patience on the audience’s part.

Looking at the Photoshop job for the cover art, you wouldn’t think it but this is a film that is shot with a ton of visual flair. There are a few occasional moments of poor framing that pop up here and there, but for the most part this is a very strong and stylish feature. The film reveals a great deal of camera movement, with a excellent use of depth as well as a few truly nifty shots. The filmmakers play with many fun devices throughout the majority of the picture, including a bizarre and totally brilliant play on the first-person perspective. During a sequence that can only be referred to as "the glory hole" scene, the camera does a zoom that passes through the door of a bathroom stall and then enters into a first-person perspective that craftily establishes one of the biggest belly laughs within the entire movie. That is saying something too, because the comedy in Fathoms Deep is actually very well established throughout. Although dealing with some very "gangster" elements, the movie doesn’t try to remain grim. Instead it focuses on these characters, who experience a wealth of bright moments to go with all of the black.

Fathoms Deep is certainly one of the better crime films that I have been sent through Rogue Cinema in quite a while. It owes a lot to films like Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects and even knockoffs like The Boondock Saints and Suicide Kings, but it never fails to entertain. I would highly recommend it to viewers who think they might want to enter into this witty world of gangsters and west coast deviants. You can read more about the film at the official Facebook page here.