By Daniel Wible | April 9, 2003

From the heavy-metal riffing over the opening credits to the hilarious slap-stick ending, “Reciprocity” is a delightfully fiendish dark comedy. Written and directed with manic glee by Chuck Hartsell, “Reciprocity” is a short film about those time-honored familial qualities such as love, bonding, and, of course, revenge. Jack is a listless, 28-year old college drop-out living at home with his parents. Rachel is his bratty, 11-year old cousin visiting Jack’s family for a few weeks. What starts out innocently enough as a playground duel of insults (“doofus”, “stinkwad”, “booger breath”, “rat stink snot face”, you get the idea), soon escalates into all-out warfare of truly epic proportions. The two cousins, who obviously have nothing better to do, trade off increasingly more elaborate “shock and awe” tactics as revenge for previous affronts. (I won’t reveal any of the specifics here, but let’s just say they’re all very funny.) Once Jack starts drawing up plans for his final assault and Rachel whips out Sun-Tzu’s The Art of Warfare, we know it’s all over.
“Reciprocity” wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without the two dynamite leads. Michael Shelton (Jack) is pitch-perfect as the whiny, lazy couch-potato simply trying to defend his turf. The actor is instantly recognizable as an overgrown little boy, with a wicked sort of charm. Equally perfect in her role is Katarina Cole as the seemingly sweet little girl with the heart (and sting) of a King Cobra. Ms. Cole, in her first professional acting gig, reveals herself as a total natural at comedy. (One only hopes she was acting!) When on-screen together, the two actors are even better. Their interchange of childish insults, as cited above, is a high point and an instant classic. I’ve seen the film four times now and that scene still puts me stitches. Much credit for the film’s success is due to the witty and inventive direction of Chuck Hartsell. In only his second short film, the writer/director displays an endearingly bizarre sense of humor and a command over the medium. Whether or not Hartsell and company (which comprise Crewless Productions) can sustain their deliriously wacky vision over feature length remains to be seen…
(In case you were concerned, the filmmakers assure us that “no animals or little girls were harmed during the making of this film. The same cannot be said, however, for grown men.”)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon
Skip to toolbar