In Greenlight, director/co-writer Graham Denman delivers an intense tale of a first-time film director whose joy over his perfect opportunity is shattered when he’s manipulated into agreeing to shoot a real-life murder. Jack (Chase Williamson) is the aspiring filmmaker looking for his big break when his networking pays off, and he’s called in by a well-dressed, overly slick producer named Bob Moseby (Chris Browning). Jack pours his heart out to Moseby, explaining his passion for cinema and thinking his day has finally come when he’s hired to direct Sleep Experiment, a low-budget slasher movie.
Moseby uses Jack’s determination to be a filmmaker to trap him into complicity with an engineered “accident” on the set that would result in a loaded gun being traded for a prop gun. Jack is terrified into capitulating when Moseby threatens his friend, Sam (Shane Coffey), who Jack hires as director of cinematography on the picture, and his girlfriend Shantelle (Evanne Friedmann). Shantelle and Sam do not understand Jack’s sudden attitude change after the first day of shooting when all he’d ever wanted was to make a feature. He can’t tell them why he’s freaking out, and they begin to wonder if he really has the skills and temperament to direct.
The dynamic performances of the cast well serve the outstanding script. Williamson and Coffey deliver beautifully as Jack and Sam, but the film belongs to Chris Browning as the chilling Moseby, who steals every scene he’s in. Browning has mastered the threat of intense, casual evil, and his low-key menace gives Jack a warning vibe from the outset, but not enough to wave him off until it’s too late. Moseby projects a calm confidence that seems jaded, almost apathetic, but his mood swings turn suddenly to homicidal rage, though he’s never out of control.
“…an intense tale of a first-time film director whose joy over his perfect opportunity is shattered…”
The on-set gunplay accident in Moseby’s scheme has actually happened. The Crow star Brandon Lee was shot to death while making that movie by an actor who believed the prop gun he was using to be loaded with only blanks, but it had slugs in it. There was no foul play. However, it was negligence caused by sloppy weapons-mastering. The rules for guns in films were tightened up across the industry after Lee’s death.
Greenlight works on several levels. On the surface, it’s a ripping great thriller about a good person forced into horrific circumstances by a maniac, fearful for his friends and family if he pushes back. It works well, provoking that stomach-drop fear following Jack as he tries to dig out from under Moseby’s criminally insane machinations. The movie speaks to the awful Faustian deal that often comes with monetizing art at a deeper, metaphorical level. The artist knows that, to some degree, he/she will probably be forced to compromise either self or art to succeed.
The paranoia for anyone new to the business is figuring out how deep one is required to go. What are the usual expectations, and where should one personally draw the line? After you’ve sold your soul, what else are you willing to give? Would you kill for your art? If your art is your baby, will you be willing to kill your darlings, or, worse, how much will you maim them to distort them into a marketable shape?
As for our burgeoning director, the finale of Greenlight keeps the audience on edge until the last moment. This film will bring you a delightful discomfort from the drama both in front of and behind the camera.
"…the dynamic performances of the cast well serve the outstanding script."