Matthew Ewald’s offbeat, micro-budget action film, The Coffin Bound Kings, tells the tale of combat veterans with raging PTSD going undercover to root out organized crime. These operatives take a scorched-earth approach, skipping over the judge and jury roles, jumping straight to hardware-heavy executions while wearing various demonic masks with their surplus desert tactical gear. Streams of brass shell casings cover the floor as they show up to wreak the vengeance of the just upon bad men.
Most of the movie’s focus is in a basement scene where mob heavies have suspected snitch, Owen Chandor (Matthew Ewald, doing triple duty as star, writer, and director), tied to a chair with the intent to interrogate him. It appears this conversation might end with a bang for Chandor.
At least that’s the best synopsis of the film possible, given the sound quality, which is very poor and inconsistent. An unbreakable rule of low-budget filmmaking is the sound has to be the highest quality element, or the dialogue is lost. Media audio revolves around the notion of dynamic range, which is the delta in volume between the quiet segments and the loud parts. Mostly, audio engineers will compress the sound to make this delta small so that an audience can find a comfortable level of sound for their viewing on one volume setting. The Coffin Bound Kings has a massive dynamic range swing that makes for a very unsettling experience. If you set the volume for dialogue, then the gunfire in the action sequences will have your ears bleeding. Iffy visuals in a movie can be OK and can even add to the overall Indie cred, but the budget must be spent on the sound. The audience must be able to hear your words.
“…a scorched-earth approach, skipping over judge and jury roles, jumping straight to hardware-heavy executions…”
The runtime of the film, at an hour, puts it in a weird space. It’s too short to be a feature and too long to be a short. It comes across like a cinematic “novella.” It could fit right into a series episode length and might, in fact, have worked better as a chapter in an anthology series.
The Coffin Bound Kings has some shining moments of characterization. Ewald is a solid actor, and that shows. Beyond that, the movie’s concept is lost in the thrown away dialogue and confusing action sequences. A note about gunplay in the film: it’s jarring for the audience when a low-budget DIY endeavor features real firearms. Revolvers, semi-automatic handguns, and AR-15 class assault weapons, which are clearly not props, are used in the action sequences and the interrogation. They are real-life scary in context. Part of a filmmaker’s responsibility is to keep the audience engaged in the narrative. Real weapons in the context of a low-budget movie, where everything else is at a minimal level of production quality, could pull the audience right out of the moment.
Ewald is expressing something about respect for veterans and their sacrifices by pointing out the abuses of organized crime and the tyranny of evil men. The tone comes across clearly, and the intent is impressive, even if the details are confusing and nebulous.
There’s a great story within the hour runtime of The Coffin Bound Kings, but the current version feels unfinished.
"…expressing...respect for veterans and their sacrifices..."