Land of Scorpions (2014) – By Kyle Hytonen

The gritty short crime drama Land of Scorpions tells a tale of greed, paranoia and double crosses, all told in the dark underbelly of the Glasgow streets.

 Low-down hood Tony (Craig Maclachlan) is summoned to meet up with Jack (Martin Burns, also writer/director), his overbearing boss, who seems to be a big player in the seedy criminal world. Jack is a rough looking gangster; he sits in his car, well dressed, a stout man, looking like Orson Welles after a good night of gambling and womanizing.  Jack’s paranoia over Tony seems to get the best of him, as Jack is convinced Tony is wearing a wire, which may be a bargaining chip for Tony. Tony has lost Jack a lot of money, and a man in Jack’s position can’t bear with the concept of losing money. Jack makes his point clear that if Tony doesn’t recover the lost cash it will come back to him one way or the other.

Tony is then taken captive after his brief yet intimidating meeting with Jack by some strange assailants. They throw him into the back of a van, blindfold him and drive him to a secluded location. Tony is strapped to a chair in a vacant warehouse. When the blindfold comes off, the lovely Detective Donovan (Kerry Browne) stands before Tony. She begins to explain to Tony that Jack may be in for a bit of a surprise when he finds out who is working for who.

Land of Scorpions is a very fast paced and simple crime thriller. At only 7 minutes long, I wonder if this is possibly a proof of concept piece to entice interest in an expanded version further down the road, either a longer and more developed short or a feature for that matter, the material is there. Land of Scorpions is well made and well acted. All 3 leads are very believable in their roles and convey both the physicality and skills to make their characters come alive on screen. Burns and Maclachlan in particular, seem to be both immersed and having fun with their respective roles. The film is well shot, with stark high contrast lighting to really bring out the grittiness of the streets. Overall, Land of Scorpions is a fine exercise in the crime genre, and a great slice of life from the Scottish perspective of that subject.

I’m hoping that this is work that will be expanded into a longer form in the near future, the performances and characters deserve such.