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By Merle Bertrand | September 29, 2003

You think you’re watching a typical travelogue at first; an obnoxious family’s trip to Hollywood caught on videotape for them to watch once when they return home, only to place it up on a bookshelf where it will gather dust, forgotten and untouched, for the next twenty years. Then you think you’re watching something horrifying as the family, following a frantic Pat Sajak sighting, realizes that their youngest son has gone missing. It’s only after the family, mistakenly thinking they’re being car-jacked, abandons the video camera in their haste to flee, and the “carjackers,” a love triangle-ridden trio of teenagers, turn the camera on themselves, that we get a sense of what this film’s all about.
From here, the meaning of the title “Random Shooting In L.A.” becomes clear, as the film begins its string of meandering stream of consciousness events, all caught on tape for our viewing pleasure. And the camera captures the ensuing vignettes in an unflinching, coolly voyeuristic fashion that’s as unnerving as it is fascinating. Through the camera’s eye, we see a father resisting his prodigal son’s transparent attempt to scam some money. We watch as the son later professes his infinite love for a young actress; an infatuation we quickly learn has veered dangerously close to a stalker’s obsession. Soon after, we’re there as the girl’s friends violently “dissuade” the young man from his one-sided pursuit. There are other poignant stories as well: A husband’s painfully desperate attempt to breath some life back into his failing marriage by using the video camera to spice things up, for instance. The result leaves the couple’s souls more naked than their bodies. Later, a sleazy fast-talker’s seduction of a pretty Russian prostitute just to win a tasteless bet leads us to anger…and so on. So how best to review a film like “Random Shooting in L.A.?” After all, the basic premise has been around at least since the film “$20 Bill” and, no doubt, will eventually be recycled again. (In fact, that’s a potential logline for the filmmakers right there: “A ‘$20 Bill’ for ‘The Blair Witch’ age…”) Yet, while the concept might not be the most original in the world, the execution here is highly effective. Written by different writers and pulled together seamlessly by director Jeffrey Delman, these haunting vignettes, like those other more violent kinds of random shootings, will leave behind an impression that lasts long after the videotape fades to black. On that basis alone, then, I heartily recommend “Random Shooting In L.A.”

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