Sometime last year I had the unpleasant task of reviewing a film called “Followed Home“. It was a terrible film & I could not recommend anyone watching it. It is one of the worst films I have ever seen BUT it did have some pretty good actors in it. One of the lead actors in the film is named Zachary Ryan Block & a few weeks ago I received an email from him regarding the review. Much to my surprise he didn’t threaten my life or question my humanity (It’s happened before…apparently I’ve stepped on a few toes in the past). He agreed with some of what I wrote, disagreed with some as well, but he had a great attitude towards all of it & came off as a genuinely sincere individual. Zachary invited me to sample a film that he wrote & directed and being the glutton for punishment that I am, I accepted his offer. Soon afterwards, I received a nicely wrapped package which I stared at for a LONG time before I opened it. I listened for any ticking (there was none), I went over the package with a metal detector (Believe it or not I have one), I had my cousin’s dog sniff at it for a hot minute or so as well (No contraband). Finally, I asked my wife to open it while I hid in the bathtub (I told her it was a surprise. Women love surprises). I heard no explosion from my hiding place so I got up & promptly snatched the box away from her. Inside was a copy of Zachary’s film, a film with the tagline “There’s No Such Thing As Good Guys”. A film called “Fathoms Deep”.
“Fathoms Deep” tells the story of two low rent criminals, Hicks (Zachary Block) & Cash (Robert Dill), who have gotten themselves into a big pickle because a job they were hired to do has gone sour. Their employer, Dregs (Azymyth Kaminski), is upset with them but doesn’t blame them for the problem either. So he sends one of his goons named Pox (Austin Galante) to pick them up & bring them back to him in one piece. Apparently the Organization that Dregs was partnering with for the job aren’t too happy with the way things have worked out & they want Hicks & Cash eliminated. Two killers are dispatched to do the job & Pox has to get them back to Dregs safely.
It’s plainly obvious to see where the inspiration for this movie is derived from. It’s a slavish homage to all things Tarantino, going as far as to mimic some scenes from some of his movies fairly well. But this isn’t a bad thing in this case, as a matter of fact “Fathoms Deep” really hits the mark as far as snappy “Tarantino-esque” dialog goes. The movie moves at a brisk pace & the actors really use the inherent energy of the dialog to keep us interested in the proceedings.
It’s also a really good looking movie. The budgetary constraints of the film are immediately evident but somehow cinematographer (& Writer/producer/actor/director) Zachary Ryan Block manages to get some gorgeous looking scenery to look even more gorgeous than it should. The images are crystal clear, sharp & well defined. It’s a gorgeous movie to look at despite the constraints of a super low budget. Excellent work!
Now before you guys start to think that I’m trying to do Zachary a favor let me speak about a few of the shortcomings the film has to it as well….. Starting with the script. Although it’s a pretty well written piece, it is extremely derivative & echoes dozens of other similar films. It is perhaps a bit too slavish to Tarantino & the shooting scripts for his films. “Fathoms Deep” wants to be a Tarantino film so badly that it overlooks some opportunities it could have used to set itself apart from the pack of Quentin wanna be’s. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad script, it just could’ve been a bit more than they were shooting for. Giving the characters names like, Pox, Dregs, Cash, Yellow/Red/Blue lagoon & Moses might sound cute on paper but given the glut of gangster films with oddly named characters in them that have come before (Goodfellas comes to mind right away), it feels a bit tired here. Tactics like this smack of imitation & aren’t very original.
The two leads perform admirably although Dill has a tendency to mumble some of his lines & Block seems to think that speaking very LOUDLY makes his character seem more threatening (It doesn’t). But they both perform admirably & seem to have a real rapport going on between them. The other roles in the film are well cast & everyone seems to be having a good time. Some characters are seemingly plucked from other films entirely though. Dregs is very reminiscent of Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman) from “True Romance”. One of the assassins dispatched to get Hicks & Cash reminded me of Vinnie Jones from any of Guy Ritchie’s London gangster trilogy of films although he is a good sight shorter than Jones is. But the cast does a good job of essaying the dialog with the appropriate menace required to get their point across.
There are some laugh out loud moments to be found here as well. One particular scene that takes place in a toilet stall is particularly funny & very inventively shot as well. It involves Pox trying to use the wrong toilet at the wrong time & it did make me laugh out loud, much to my wife’s chagrin as she was fast asleep next to me. There is an undercurrent of black humor that runs throughout the film that is always there but never overwhelms the proceedings either. It manages to stay as dramatic as it needs to be despite the humorous undertones that might threaten a weaker script.
The one problem that is inescapable is the incredibly low budget that Block had to work with. The movie bites off a bit more than it can chew and that disappointed me a bit. It really works well as a kind of modern day noir…not as a action movie and although Block understands what he has to work with, there are times when he seems to be reaching for something he just can’t achieve with the budget he has. Hopefully in the future he’ll have a bigger budget to build a film around because he really is a talent to watch. He’s proven he can do it all with this film & do it all well.
In the end I feel comfortable giving “Fathoms Deep” 3 1/2 shrouds. It is a great looking, compelling crime drama that features some crackling dialog and good performances along with a sprinkling of dark humor to lighten up the proceedings. It should serve as Zachary Ryan Block’s calling card to Hollywood and a bigger sandbox for him to work his magic in. It’s available on DVD right now as well as from Kavadba Entertainment, the film’s production company. Do yourself a favor and see it. You won’t be disappointed.
Fathoms Deep (2011)