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By Daniel Wible | September 5, 2004

A loser gets his comeuppance from two fiendish felines in the wildly inventive and hilarious short “Dead Broke”. Rodney (Rodney Gray), the loser, is overweight, balding, and of course, dead broke. He’s not exactly a charmer either, which might explain why he can’t find a job or why his four housemates constantly rag on him. Being broke, Rodney’s also got more immediate problems, such as eating and paying the rent on Friday. It’s only Monday, but Rodney is already desperate. The job market sucks, thanks to W., and he’s hungry! (“Look, ‘Barmaid Wanted’“, jokes one of his housemates, to which Rodney just growls.) He tries sneaking bites from his housemates’ fully stocked fridge, but that just pisses them off. By Tuesday, Rodney’s picking food out of the garbage. Hey, a guy’s gotta eat, after all. Soon, even the cat food looks appetizing. Sure, he’ll gladly “feed the cats” every morning, sleep as long as you want. Of course, the cats don’t get fed, while he gratefully chows down on cans of Friskies, the breakfast of champions. As the week goes on and the cats get hungrier and hungrier, their diabolical little minds begin to plot their revenge. I guess the Rod man didn’t get the memo about antagonizing two creepy cats, especially if one is missing an eye. If you didn’t get that one either, here’s a hint: it’s not a good idea. Your socks may go missing, dead squirrels start showing up at your door, and you may even end up buried in the backyard.

“Dead Broke” is only 12 minutes long and yet still manages to be far more creative and thrilling than say, Catwoman. The film’s mastermind, writer/director Patrick Hasson, is clearly having great fun here. From the moody black and white photography to the wild point-of-view shots (of the cats), the film is downright giddy with stylistic excess. Add Adam Sanborne’s sinister soundscape and you’ve got a tightly wound tale of cruelty and revenge. As the loser Rodney, Gray is perfectly cast, which is to say, he does nice work. It’s far from an acting showcase, but the actor thoroughly embodies a man whom you’d probably consider loathsome if you ever got to know him, though of course the chances of that happening would be less than slim. (Think of the pervy slob from I Stand Alone or Kevin Costner in any Kevin Costner film.) I do have some trouble buying the conceit that this guy is so broke and desperate that he would stoop to eating cat food. I mean, hasn’t this guy ever heard of White Castle? Then again, in this film, cats can change locks and steal socks from the washer, so whatever. I can overlook these petty quips only because “Dead Broke” is such an effective short. It’s efficiently paced, bleakly amusing, and damn if those cats aren’t borderline satanic little wankers. Who needs Halle Berry when you’ve got the real deal, or in this case, a freaky one-eyed kitty? (Okay, I kid, Halle Berry is always needed, crappy movie or no.)

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