Shades of Gray (2004) – By Duane L. Martin

Ever have a friend who no matter how good you were to them and how much you tried to be there for them when they needed you, always seems to end up screwing you over? I had a friend like that. His name was C.J. and no matter how much I was there for him when he needed me, he always ended up screwing me over. Well Jesse Cowell has created a film called Shades of Gray that’s all about just such a person. In fact, he wrote, directed, edited, and starred in it, showing just how multi-talented he really is.

Jesse Cowell, in my experience with him, seems like one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, but in this movie, he plays a complete and utter bastard named Eric who thinks nothing of screwing over his friends time and time again just so long as he gets whatever gratification he’s looking for, whether it be sexual, his own amusement, or just saving his own ass.

Because of Eric’s self centered attitude, five friends that have been screwed over by him big time in various ways, steal his little black book, which is full of notes on his sexual conquests, and then blackmail him with it. They tell him that he needs to meet with each and every one of them so that they can have it out with him, and he has to make them believe that he’s truly sorry for what he did. If he can’t convince them that he’s truly sorry, then they’re going to mail the book to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he’s finally found a girlfriend that he actually loves, so this is a real problem for him.

Here’s a rundown of what he did to each of his friends, and to one guy who’s not his friend:

Dave: Dave is an extremely pissy guy who always seems like he’s gonna pop a vessel. He swears constantly and his big beef with Eric is that Eric screwed his girlfriend. Apparently he broke up with her once for one day and Eric moved in and had sex with her on that day.

Chris: Chris didn’t tell anyone when Eric told him that he wanted his own sister, but Eric couldn’t give him the same courtesy when Chris mentioned casually that he got sexually aroused by his cat. Eric told everyone, and then ever since, Chris can’t go anywhere without people saying “meow” to him. It basically ruined his life.

Victor: Eric and Victor were at a party together. Victor was in the bathroom and the button came off his pants and he couldn’t keep his pants up. When he came out of the bathroom, he went and found Eric, who was sitting on the couch hitting on some extremely drunk Phillipino girl, and told him they had to go. Eric kept putting him off, and after one of the most hilarious scenes in the film where the Phillipino girl ends up passed out in a compromising position between them, her big black boyfriend comes back from the bathroom and freaks out. Eric runs for his life leaving Victor to take a serious beatdown from the pissed off boyfriend.

Guy: Guy is Eric’s best friend and his only defender, even though Eric has screwed him over constantly and doesn’t deserve it. The straw that broke the camel’s back with Guy was when Eric was helping him to talk to this girl that he liked, and then while they were standing there and he was nervously talking to her, Eric looks down and says, “Hey, chubby’s got a chubby!” The girl and Eric both started laughing and Guy looked down to see that he in fact did have a chubby and just about died. He chased Eric down and tried to beat him senseless, but Eric got away and went back and scored a date with the girl himself. Later he had the nerve to tell Guy not to worry about it because she was overrated anyway.

Jed: Jed is a Mexican guy who’s constantly getting into screaming fights with his sexy sister. Eric actually did a couple of things to Jed. First, Jed is really really anal and has his entire schedule right down to washing his hands and going to the bathroom all scheduled out in his day planner, and he checks each off as he does it. Well he left his day planner in the bathroom when he heard his sister hitting on Eric, and while he was out screaming at her, Eric ran into the bathroom to take a poo. Well there was no toilet paper, so he used the only paper that was handy, and then had the nerve to write on one last piece, “Buy TP” and left it in the toilet when he was done. Naturally Jed freaked. Eric also had an entry in his black book about Jed’s sister. The only note on the entry said “Hot Dog,” which is explained in the bonus chapter.

Billy: This guy is one pissed off big bald redneck. Seems that Eric had sex with his mother, in his room, and then put pictures of it on the internet. Now he’s going around town putting up flyers everywhere with a picture of Eric that say, “Have you seen this motherfucker?” That phrase is kind of a running joke in the film. Basically, Billy don’t just want to make him suffer, he wants to kill him.

I won’t go through the rest of the story because that would ruin the ending, but basically, the long and the short of it is that Eric’s a total bastard and deserves everything he gets. The thing is, at the end you’re left wondering whether he’s really sorry for everything he’s done or if he’s just trying to make everyone think he is.

Shades of Gray was shot on a budget of $2,000 and is available for viewing only on the web. It’s broken up into twelve chapters, the 12th being a bonus chapter explaining the whole hot dog thing with Jed’s sister. You’ll need broadband to download all the chapters, because as a collective they add up to 211 meg. It’s worth it though, because this is a movie that should be being sold on DVD, but it’s currently available to anyone who wants to watch it for free. The excellent acting, the great editing with perfect pacing along with the depth of the characters, their relationships, and all their little personality quirks all add up to an amazingly good and highly enjoyable film that’s full of laughs and crazy situations. I really want a copy of this on DVD, but unfortunately, Jesse hasn’t released it as such. Still, I downloaded all the chapters, so I can still see it whenever I want, but the video downloads lack the visual and audio quality that the film would have if it were to be released on DVD. Still, if you got broadband, then you definitely don’t want to miss this great film. Even if you’re on a modem, it’s worth the time it would take to download it all, and considering how long it would take to download 211 meg on a dial-up, that’s saying something.

You can see the movie by either streaming or downloading each chapter by clicking here. The 12th chapter is a bonus chapter, which can be accessed by moving the mouse over the redneck’s face until his eyes turn red. Just click on his eyes to see the “hot dog” bonus.