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By Merle Bertrand | April 17, 2001

Frank Dial (Tom Breeding) is a lonely hit man. (We know he’s lonely because he spends all of his time at home either in a tidy undecorated bedroom or slouched in front of a Spartan computer desk.) He spends the bulk of that time corresponding on-line with someone named Julia, yet never gets around to meeting her in person. The one time they do actually set up a rendezvous, Frank chickens out.
Meanwhile, Frank’s nosy neighbor David (Jeff Britt) is experiencing long distance relationship problems of a more traditional nature, in that his girlfriend moved to Chicago two years earlier. Ever the helpful sort, David helps himself to Frank’s computer after he comes across his unlocked door and “fixes” a problem he notices with the files. He also takes it upon himself to keep an eye on the suspicious behavior of the shady characters who intermittently stop by Frank’s place. As he IS a hit man, after all, such scrutiny naturally makes Frank a little on edge. As his on-line relationship with Julia deepens, so do his suspicions about David. Finally, Frank decides the time has come for him to get out of the hit man business…after one last hit.
Why do disasters always occur as soon as the main character decides to do “just one more” of anything? Why doesn’t the world come crashing down the time BEFORE he tries “one last time?” Why doesn’t he ever make it and get out with his head still attached?
Trust me, these rhetorical questions are far more interesting than “Pushing the Envelope.” Director Dorian Ramirez tries valiantly to put a new spin on an old, old formula, but there’s just not enough story here to hold us, even for its padded but still paltry seventy-four minutes.
Breeding does his best as the tortured hired gun, but there’s just not enough here for him to do. What does wind up on screen is often as stilted and flat as it is sluggish. Making things worse is a score that sounds like the bastard stepchild of a John Carpenter Casio soundtrack crossed with the library music from a porn video.
This might have been fine as a twenty minute short film, but there’s not nearly enough here to hold our attention as a feature film. By comparison, even “You’ve Got Mail” looks good. In fact, call “Pushing the Envelope” the anti-“You’ve Got Mail.” Forget the charismatic Tom Hanks and the ultra photogenic Meg Ryan. Don’t think for a second that this gloomy DV feature is a heartwarming hi-tech love story. Nobody lives happily ever after.
Now, if this tempts all of you fed up to here with the studios’ incessant cramming of cutesy romantic drivel down our throats to stand up and cheer…hold your applause. While those sentiments are widely shared, this tedious film is not the antidote to Hollywood’s saccharine overdose for which you might have hoped.

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