Hucksters, Snake Oil Merchants, and Con men come in many shapes and sizes. In Joshua Nelson’s latest, Mountebank, the con man comes in the form of a paraplegic being pushed around by Leila (Lara J. Barry), a devout Muslim woman. How exactly Jericho (Christian Chase) cons people is a particularly nasty little mystery that plays itself out over the 36 minutes of this short film. Sufficed to say, it was an especially taut and riveting half hour.
“…the con man comes in the form of a paraplegic…”
Not one visual effect is employed in Mountebank. It is a wonder that a film that covers the topics of end-stage disease possesses no visual effects to speak of. With a great economy of dialogue and tension, Nelson conveys the very serious stakes Jericho and Leila face. Ultimately, they find themselves confronted with a daunting challenge: Convince someone they conned to forgive them in 24 hours and not one second longer.
How this plays out is best left to the film itself. I enjoyed this half-hour mystery. It was well-acted, and the ensemble did a great job working with the material they were given. I would be curious to see how a film such as Mountebank would change if it had any sort of a budget. As it is, this is a curious little charmer, and I encourage you to seek it out. This is a fine potboiler, indeed.
"…a fine potboiler..."