By Phil Hall | September 25, 2001

Stan Mendoza’s “Born Loser” is a very effective but very nasty short film about a practical joke which goes horribly wrong. This film deserves admiration, albeit with reservations.
Set in a small insurance company, “Born Loser” centers on an obnoxious claims adjuster who devises a cruel prank on a sad-sack colleague going through a messy divorce. The jokester substitutes a phony lottery ticket with winning numbers for the unhappy colleague’s losing ticket, which he conveniently left in his desk drawer. The would-be millionaire, convinced that he struck the lottery jackpot, abruptly quits his job in a virulent tirade against their boss. However, he returns hours later after discovering the prank and pulls a gun on his tormentor, forcing him up to the roof for a confrontation.
To its credit, “Born Loser” plays with the smoothness and style that recalls Alfred Hitchcock’s classic TV show. The film offers genuinely unexpected plot twists, unusually fine production values (special kudos to Patrick Capone’s flawless cinematography), and a perfect performance by Bill Dawes as the evil trickster who gets his just desserts.
However, “Born Loser” is perhaps a bit too nasty for its own good. There are few things less pleasant than watching people mistreat each other with deliberate rudeness and the air of malice and shrill name-calling which permeates “Born Loser” becomes a bit too thick for comfort. While it is impossible not to respect the talent associated with “Born Loser,” it is a struggle to respect a work whose foundation is mixed with animosity and malevolence.
As an interesting side note, “Born Loser” is a film which literally came off the Internet. Director Stan Mendoza discovered Steve Gambutti’s screenplay on a web site offering synopses for unproduced short film scripts; Gambutti was actually an aspiring screenwriter who kept a day job as a heavy equipment salesman. While “Born Loser” is a fairly unpleasant tale, the story behind the story is at least one with a glimmer of happiness and hope.

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