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‘The Refuge’ (review)

Produced by Federico Vaona, Matthew Webb
Written and Directed by Keith Sutliff
Starring Keith Sutliff, Julien Cesario,
Matthew Webb, Reine Swart,
Stefanie Estes, Demeterius Stear,
Martin Copping, Cheyenne Buchanan

 

The teaser for The Refuge read, “A getaway driver finds himself in harm’s way when he gets caught up in a job involving casino heist money in the adrenaline-charged new crime thriller from Keith Sutliff”.

That sounded pretty good.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The film contains a number of fantastic aerial night views of Los Angeles shot with drones or from a helicopter.

When you look at the production values of the rest of the film vs those shots it is pretty easy to figure out they are stock footage. It’s pretty disappointing. A feeling that tends to repeat itself over and over again.

Written on Keith Sutliff’s IMDB bio is the following. “Keith typically plays a lead or strong supporting role in most of his films as a trademark with a variety of unorthodox, moving, and extreme close up shots which tell the story.”

Unorthodox?

I guess. If you consider unorthodox another word for poor shot choices, oblique writing and low/no budget effects.

Moving?

Not in the least. The storytelling is so slip-shod and the dialogue is so stiff there is exactly zero investment in any of the characters. There is a woman that shows up a couple of times and it’s never made clear what the relationship is between her and Sutliff so when she suddenly shows up as a key plot point, it makes no sense.

Extreme close ups?

Oh yeah, by the hundred. I don’t want to count the pores on the faces of the characters. I want a story that engages me. I don’t want to look at the upside down cross tattoo on the face of one of the only characters in the story and realize it was drawn on with a ball point pen. If you don’t have the budget for good effects, I appreciate that, but goodness gracious, don’t insult my intelligence.

There is almost no variance in the set locations. All the primary action takes place off screen. There is a reasonably powerful scene where someone is beaten to death with a wrench in front of a wall. There is no blood splatter. None.

Not on the murderer, not on the wall, nowhere. It’s shoddy filmmaking. It is distracting to the viewer and if you don’t have the budget for blood effects, come up with something else. I understand wanting the brutality of the beating and needing the brutal release of rage to provide texture to the story.

However, if you don’t have the budget to splash some red water color paint on the wall and then clean it off with a Magic Eraser, why are you even trying to make this movie?

The plot itself is a disaster. The conflicts that turn the plot make no sense.

“I need my money, I’m going out of town.”

Wait, what? A character in two scenes has perhaps, the worst Russian accent in the history of entertainment. (Think Boris and Natasha) Every single character in the film is in some sort of mortal debt and you never understand why or how it happened. The end is as meaningless as the beginning and the only thing I felt when this was over was gratitude. I was thankful I didn’t have to watch another second of it.

.25 out of 5 stars and only for the beautiful stock aerial footage. It’s really pretty.

 

 

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