Ryan Balas’ Bonzo opens with a handful of gunshots and a man running from a cabin in the middle of the woods before settling into the day-to-day routine of the bald headed, save for the just about minimal growth of a buzzed mohawk, Danny (Richard Buonagurio). Living alone in the wilderness, without electricity or running water, Danny goes about his business, occasionally interrupted by his well-meaning sister (Deirdre Herlihy).
Danny isn’t terribly receptive to these friendly visits, however, preferring to be silent and sometimes angrily aggressive. Sometimes he has to go into town, but the occasional musical score sets the scene as almost like visiting an alien world. Danny is up to something, though we remain in the dark for the majority of the film (hints begin to become more prevalent about midway through the film; for one, he’s no fan of the internet).
Calling this deliberately paced would be an understatement; the film moves at almost glacial speed. The first lines of dialogue don’t show up for about 18 minutes, when the first character other than Danny arrives on screen. Which is my way of hinting that, if any of the above seems uninteresting to you, or you’re not the type to exercise a strong level of cinematic patience, then you’re likely not going to be game for this one.
Not that it’s a bad film by any stretch, but the filmmakers obviously wanted to create something minimal that allowed for a significant amount of narrative breath, and they achieved that. It’s not accurate to say that “nothing happens,” but it’s hard to describe it in a way that gives any other impression.
That said, once it becomes clear the direction things are going, and Danny’s ideas start to come together, the film’s focus also appears to be far more exact than you may have initially imagined. Then the film becomes a character study of a person who most don’t take the time to think about until after something horrible happens; whether there are warning signs is debatable in a grander conversation, but as framed in this film, when it’s over, you can’t help but have seen them all.
In the end, while I found the film fairly interesting by the final credits, it is also going to be an endurance challenge for the casual viewer. Slow burn, almost single-character dramas like this require the ability to accept a significant amount of silence, both literally and in a more narrative sense. It’s not going to be for everyone, and it’s never easy.
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