Rivalries (2015) – By Matthew Robinson

“Rivalries” starts out stronger than just about anything I’ve seen here in my admittedly short tenure with Rogue Cinema. Everything from it’s opening “Hot Stereo Productions” logo to the beautiful desaturated shots of a rainy Shanghai I was hooked immediately.

First I must personally apologize to writer/director/producer Philip Stainsby. I saw this film for the month but then for some crazy reason forgot to send it in by the deadline despite having the article written, I deeply apologize for the review some how falling through the cracks. As you will see over the next few paragraphs I was actually very enthusiastic about the movie.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot as I truly want people to seek this film out for themselves but an employee/hired gun (Patrick Doyle) is a Canadian in Shanghai whose been given a job. The job has been tasked to him by a mysterious voice that is never seen but ever-present throughout the story; voiced by Mark Manning. It’s all about this shady employee’s day, his preparation, his thoughts, his time, his inner conflict, his forgetful mind and it’s quite engaging in that regard.

Basically the entire movie is done via voice-overs and the sound work from Jason Chonin is for the most part top notch. Since he’s done such a good job I do have to get a little nit picky and point out that sometimes conversations over the phone sound like they are happening in a cosmic space, instead of over the phone. Some more thorough filtering and audio tweaking could have helped, but I am being very picky. The sound of the streets, cars, rain and the score composed by Andrew Mobbs is all beautifully done.

The cinematography, which I assume was done by Stainsby, is gorgeous; it has a real urban gritty feel that has almost a nostalgic 1990’s atmosphere to it all. The meticulous detail to the city, which becomes a character all in it’s own really makes every scene impossible to look away from.  About ten minutes into this movie I stopped watching on my laptop and put it on my big screen TV so I could soak up every single pixel of this cinematic product.

This reminded be a bit of the work of Won Kar-wai a director whose work has inspired my own film aesthetic at times. In particular this reminded me of the look and feel of his feature “Chungking Express” which is set in Hong Kong; I wonder if the film had any influence on Stainsby’s work. Either way it’s mesmerizing and I want to know everything about his storyboards, production design and editing process.

If I have to be negative about anything I have to give some small criticism to Doyle who plays the lead. He’s a fine actor in many ways but I think for a movie like this his voice needed a bit more growl, more grit. Perhaps something more akin to Keeanu Reeves in “John Wick” or Fred McMurray in “Double Indemnity” it just felt a bit too calming at times to be a potentially dangerous criminal. Thankfully his performance is more than serviceable and the script moves his motivation along quite nicely. It’s not going to win any awards but its definitely a performance I won’t soon forget.

So please everyone go and seek out “Rivarlies” this is an indie film that at times feels like a studio picture with at least a $10 million budget. It’s thought provoking, polished and extremely well produced. I hope to see more from this talented team in the future, actually I don’t even need to hope; they’re going to be successful.

You can check out the Rivalries official website at: http://www.rivalriesmovie.com/home.html

And join their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/rivalriesmovie