Peter’s Price (2005) – By Jonathon Pernisek

 Rare is the short film that manages to pull you in and deftly demand your involvement, but writer/director Mitchell Cohen’s Peter’s Price does the job nicely. A lazier critic would now make some superficial comparisons between the film he’s supposed to be discussing and others he’s enjoyed in the past, but name dropping is not my game. To avoid outright comparisons, let’s just say Peter’s Price is a nice blend of sharply written dialogue with a splash of caper sensibility. Okay, so maybe that’s an awful quote as well. Heck, let’s just skip the introduction and move right on, shall we?

Cohen’s story is simple but fun in description, both for the teller and the listener. We begin during the last few moments of a bank’s business day, where Peter Price (Chris Mur) is overseeing the usual lockup routine. Joan, a bubbly clerk, nearly shuts him inside the bank’s vault, which causes Mr. Price to grimace and stalk out after a few lines of banter with the guard. Speaking of Joan, she’s an immediately appealing character, all due to Alisha Seaton’s performance. Frankly I think Cohen should make a semi-sequel in which Joan has her own little adventure, if only because Seaton has so much fun on camera and is so natural. Alas, her time onscreen is minimal, but she makes sure to use every second wisely.

Peter, ready to end the day and go home, is moments away from entering his car when a greasy thug appears out of nowhere and threatens him with a gun. As Peter desperately tries to get out of the situation, he comes to a stunning realization: The thug, as it turns out, is his old childhood friend, Jake Mahoney (James McCaffrey). They haven’t seen each other in years, but could their friendship be resuscitated? The rest of the film sees the two men discovering just how different their lives have turned out, considering how as kids they were both two-bit schemers and con-men. It’s a tight, well-paced premise, and in the director’s seat Cohen knows how to orchestrate the pace so nothing ever seems repetitive or drawn out for the sake of adding length to the overall product. He’s also got a good visual eye, as the film comes off looking extremely professional.

As a duo, Peter and Jake are enjoyable to watch, and it’s a good thing because most of their time is spent talking to one another across a dingy restaurant table. In lesser hands such a scene, containing plentiful dialogue filled with a juicy quality of give and take, might have come off as static. Luckily Mur succeeds in making Peter a complicated guy, who underneath the business-minded persona senses the undercurrent of rebellion and bitterness that comes with being a bread-earning schlub. McCaffrey does a good job as well, though sometimes he stops being a natural, overly nostalgic roughneck and slides into the broader archetype of a foul-mouthed goon. Together the men have chemistry worth noting, and it’s not hard to believe their characters could have been good pals. By buying into their back stories, it proves the actors have done their homework.

After watching Peter’s Price I would be interested in seeing the further work of Cohen in the filmmaking world. He knows how to push his actors in the right direction, and his skill at setting up clean, professional shots and penning well-timed screenplays will allow him to go far. I give him and his film hearty thumbs up, and if you ever happen to catch it sometime, I’m sure you will as well.

To find out more in regards to Peter’s Price, visit director Mitchell Cohen’s Myspace page for the film at http://www.myspace.com/petersprice.

Actress Alicia Eaton also has a page about her role in the film which you can check out here.

Update (4/12/2012): Peter’s Price is now available on iTunes right here.