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By John Clapp | June 23, 2009

Conceived, written, shot, and edited within a 100-hour span for the New York Midnight Competition, the short crime film “Kharon’s Fare,” which clocks in at a little under six minutes, is a black-and-white close-up of two opposing hitmen trapped in the tight quarters of an apartment kitchen.

By the opening scene, it’s clear damage has already been done: the younger hitman, Tom (Joel Vetsch), holds a gun, while the older hitman, Michael (Leo Petry), holds his bloodied stomach. No back-story is given or even necessary. All the viewer needs to know is that one of these two thugs has reached the end, and now it’s time for the victor to milk his opponent’s precious final minutes.

While there’s obviously much tension (one guy did shoot the other, after all), there’s also an unspoken sense of respect between Tom and Michael. Perhaps it’s reading too much into the film to suggest that Michael was Tom’s mentor at one point, or that Tom was clearly seen by the crime underworld as Michael’s eventual successor. Nonetheless, the two hitmen are on a first-name basis, and they clearly share a history of some kind.

Tom, ever the consummate gentlemen, allows Michael one final cup of coffee before he dies, which Petry prepares in hammy fashion. (Then again, asking an actor to credibly pour a cup of joe after his character suffers a fatal wound is a tall task.)

Without spoiling the finish, it can be said that “Kharon’s Fare” doesn’t end with Michael simply petering out after a brief dose of caffeine. Petry nicely delivers sometime after the halfway point that “There is no honor among thieves.”

Petry plays the injury well overall. Both he and Vetsch give some funny-in-a-Taratino-way-but-cornier lines (Vetsch’s “Damn good cup of coffee” feels like a nod to “Pulp Fiction”), and the writing (Matt Raimo) and directing (David C. Diaz) are solid.

But where “Kharon’s Fare” shines is in Michael Cruz’s cinematograpy. Whatever lack of preparation might have hurt the acting or writing, it surely didn’t seem to negatively affect the lighting and shot choices. “Kharon’s Fare” is an exercise in brevity and quite an accomplishment, considering the time limitations.

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