The annual SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas brought with it this year a new independently produced drama titled Three Holes, Two Brads, and a Smoking Gun written by veteran writer Scott Fivelson (Near Myth: The Oskar Knight Story, Dial L for Latch-Key, Tuxes) and produced by Zuher Khan, Hilarion Banks, Sasha Yelaun, and directed by Hilarion Banks. The film premiered Friday, March 7th at Buckshot on Austin’s famous 6th Street. (Complete list of all producers here)
The film stars veteran actors James Wilder (Melrose Place), Joaquim de Almeida (Desperado), Rudolf Martin (Swordfish, NCIS), Richard Edson (Platoon; Good Morning, Vietnam), and Zuher Khan in his first major acting role.
The film opens with a seemingly innocent meeting between a student – Jack Ariamehr, played by Khan- and his teacher, a washed up screenwriter who, since he can no longer ‘do”, instead, teaches – Bobby Blue Day, played by Wilder.
Day comes before his last class to discuss a script written by Jack titled “Hijack”. The meeting becomes a clever conversation between two men who desperately want the same thing – rights to and credit for that script. Each word is a strategic move towards that goal. Both teacher and student size each up as opponents while stealthily inching closer to gaining control over the perceived famed and fortune this script, one that both know is the most incredible movie script ever written, will ultimately bring to whoever’s name is on the title page. The question becomes how far will they go to achieve this?
The movie is written with the artistic flair of a seasoned exotic dancer who knows how to reveal each bit of skin to further entice the audience and have them clamoring for more. The dialogue is cerebral with each line having more than one meaning, more than one intention. Three Holes is a “thinker”. If you ask ten people what they got out of this movie, you’d get ten different answers and all would be partially or even entirely correct. It’s a mystery based on perception.
Despite it being a low-budget film, it provides big-budget drama. Where most films go for flash and CG (computer graphics), this film honors past “Who Dunnits” in the style of Agatha Christie by being driven purely by dialogue. And how that dialogue is translated can only come from good acting. Wilder brings many years of acting to this film and creates a character who is dangerously unpredictable, disturbing, and desperate beneath a veneer of charm; charm that is deceiving. Equally deceiving is Jack who tries to come across as the innocent naïve student who knows nothing, but, in either fits of ego or just plain thoughtlessness, reveals through quips that he knows more than he lets on. Still, Jack is no match for Bobby.
One of the supporting characters in the film that stood out was Joey the Junkman played by de Almeida.
Almeida’s scene with Khan inside the junk store could inspire a separate movie. In a scene fraught with tension as Jack searches for an old Remington typewriter, he inadvertently reveals the truth of his situation in the form of a lie as he explains the topic of his script.
Jack: “You know, since I like ya and stuff, I’m gonna give you some insider information. You know, my screenplay, it’s about this guy who kills another guy to get a script and, uh, he needs to find an old typewriter to match that screenplay so he can put his name on it.” (This is both the real truth and also a subtle threat to Joey who had asked what the script was about – Jack’s hidden message – don’t ask too many questions or something might happen to you, too.)
Unfazed, Joey replies “Now that is pretty f***ing clever.”
Jack: Yea, it’s called “Hijack”.
Joey never loses his poker face. “Good title.”
After completing the transaction for the typewriter, Joey reveals a little of his own truth. He’s a retired hitman who has killed men from one border to the next and he is now enjoying his “golden” years by working in the junk business. The look on his face clearly reads “don’t threaten with me, kid. It won’t end well for you.”
The bi-play between these two heightens the drama already in play by adding a new layer. Still, the best line in the scene comes from Almeida when he says to Jack, “Humph, I see. You are that type of writer…a pain in the ass of a writer!”
Now the audience knows the truth about the script, and the race is on to see who triumphs and who dies before it’s all said and done; a deadly and twisted game of Clue.
Cameo appearances by international actor Rudolf Martin as a junkie hemophiliac and Howard McNair as Clive Mimsby – the person who actually wrote Hijack – add to the mystery. Finally, supporting actress Rebecca Mae Palmer who plays Sailor Stewart, the current love interest of Jack and past love interest of Bobby Blue Day supplies a third layer of complication and tension to the strained relationship between the two leading men. In this movie, nothing is quite as it seems until all the pieces of the puzzle are in place.
Three Holes, Two Brads, and a Smoking Gun is an intelligent drama that is thought-provoking and clever. If you’ve wondered whatever happened to smart, well-written movies – where they disappeared to? This film is the answer.
Michele Gwynn is a freelance journalist in San Antonio, Texas, an author, and contributing writer for Examiner.com, Yahoo Voices, and several online magazines and websites.