The Shooting of Barry Miller (2013) – By Cary Conley

Isn’t it funny how your life can change in a single day? Well, if we’re truly honest, life can change in a single instant–sometimes disastrously, other times gloriously.

Anthony (Daniel Brunnemer Hall) has had one of those disastrous, life-changing days and the worst part is that it’s only lunchtime! He’s caught shopping online for an engagement ring while at work and summarily fired, only to receive a text from his girlfriend who dumps him just as quickly as he lost his job. To top it off, he just received a huge tax bill and has gone from financially stable to broke with just the opening of a letter. He simply wants to numb himself with alcohol and spend the afternoon in misery, but his upstairs neighbor has other plans. The much-too-loud music beating down into Anthony’s skull is too much for him, so he decides to rip his neighbor for his rudeness.

But Anthony’s machismo disappears just about the time his neighbor appears at his door. Far from the acid rock-goth loser Anthony is expecting, his neighbor–whom he’s never met–turns out to be a clean-cut, good-looking African-American who is disarmingly charming. He apologizes profusely to Anthony, introduces himself, and invites Anthony in for a drink. Mosier (Derege Harding) is, in fact, so nice that Anthony finds himself pouring out all his troubles to his new friend. Mosier then offers Anthony a fascinating offer: how about taking a suitcase and trading it in a dark parking garage for a mysterious package which, returned to Mosier, will net Anthony $20,000? Desperate and a little drunk, Anthony doesn’t feel like he has anything to lose (hey, who wouldn’t want to take this kind of sweet deal, down on your luck or not??) and agrees to make the switch. And this fateful decision of Anthony’s is going to lead to a shocking conclusion–and yet another life-altering event–one in which the viewer will be quite surprised.

Writer/director C. Alec Rossel has crafted a smart 15-minute film that plays on the audiences’ stereotyping of the character of Mosier while simultaneously turning that stereotype onto its ear and delivering one of the most unique endings to a film this reviewer has seen in a long time. With a single small shot of Mosier’s hand hidden behind the door clutching a gun, the viewer automatically assumes that Anthony has just been volunteered to be a mule in a drug run. Even his ex-girlfriend laughs at him when she hears the story. Obviously it’s a drug exchange, she says. The location of the drop only serves to buoy this idea, as it’s on the rooftop of a deserted building in the roughest section of town. To be sure, it is an illegal exchange, and Mosier is most certainly a bad man even as he charms Anthony into doing the exchange. But when the contents of the package are finally revealed, the story takes a twist into The Twilight Zone…with only one rider allowed, though there are now three on the rooftop. Who will win out and be changed forever? Do any of the trio deserve the contents of the package? And, by the way, who the heck is Barry Miller? These questions will all be answered by film’s end.

With intelligent writing, snappy direction, and a very solid cast of three, Barry Miller is a fun and unique film. It also sports some nice optical effects and a fantastic score, especially the opening song, which is both beautiful and haunting. Much like the story of Anthony’s very long day, the song bookends the film, opening at the beginning and closing at the end.

The Shooting of Barry Miller has just been completed and should be making its way online and into festivals this summer and fall. If you get a chance to see the film, make a point to go, as you will be sure to be as impressed as I was. For more information about the film or to view the trailer, go to nofproductions.com.