Nothing tests a relationship more than a scam gone wrong in a barren desert and with death on the line. In J.D. Funari’s short film Exposure, a couple Amy (Renahy Aulani) and Gregory (Chasen Bauer) are panicked under the desert heat, trying to work themselves out of the mess they’re in. Like a good thriller, the details of the couple’s problem are slowly revealed over a series of flashbacks intercut with their predicament.
In flashbacks, we see Amy as a driven legal assistant trying to impress her attorney boss, Craig (P.J. King). Instead, she is berated over a simple filing error. She’s stuck in a nowhere position with a boss, who prefers to take advantage of her eagerness.
“Nothing tests a relationship more than a scam gone wrong in a barren desert and with death on the line…”
At home, Amy is the breadwinner and Craig is the dreamer. His dream to be a rock star is dashed when an audition for a local band doesn’t go well for the young man.
Taking the bull by the horns, Amy concocts a plan to blackmail her boss, Craig, who bought a police officer’s testimony to win his case. Willing to do anything for Amy, Gregory assumes the role of a blackmailer and sets up a secluded meeting with Craig in the middle of the desert and we learn where all that blood on Gregory’s face came from.
Director Funari makes the most of his 18-minute short. His script is lean, tight, and effectively builds tension using quick edits between past and present events. Along with editing, Kenji Ueda’s score adds to the tension as the music grows and abruptly ends in a series of effective and brief transition from present to past.
“…effectively builds tension using quick edits between past and present events.”
Exposure is good but falls a little short in a few areas to be considered great. Renahy Aulani and Chasen Bauer are excellent as the couple, but the dialogue feels scripted at times, mostly in heated exchanges where it counts the most. Also as much as the music aids builds tension, at other moments, it sometimes feels out of place with the imagery on the screen. I’ll admit, this is my subjective opinion. Others may feel different, but the score just felt “off” at times, especially during the wide shots of the desert vista. Lastly, the blood effects just didn’t quite work either. I’m sure tweaking the way it was shot might help.
Overall, a decent story of a scam gone wrong, along with excellent performances from its leads, Exposure is worth 18 minutes of your time. Especially if you can catch it at a film festival or make it a part of your own festival programming.
Exposure (2018) Directed by J.D. Funari. Written by Peter Hanson. Starring Renahy Aulani, Chasen Bauer, P.J. King.
6 out of 10 stars