New York City screenwriting instructor, Bobby Blue Day (James Wilder), is looking for a way back into the Hollywood scene, and he thinks he may have found that re-entry after reading a student’s screenplay. Bobby visits Jack (Zuher Khan) early one morning to discuss Jack’s script, in the hopes of partnering with Jack to share in the sure accolades and riches to come. Nothing is that simple, however, or even as it seems.
Hilarion Banks’ feature film, Three Holes, Two Brads, and a Smoking Gun, plays like a mystery thriller, as truths are revealed about everyone, and the screenplay itself. It also has elements of subtle horror, for as much as a throwaway thought it may seem at the time, when Bobby refers to the screenplay as potentially cursed, it’s not so far-fetched an idea by the end.
It’s a unique tone to take, and all the more intriguing considering it’s a thriller about struggling writers who are at the ends of their respective ropes, a subject that doesn’t always lend itself to originality; usually it’s just an excuse to get self-referential and cinematically gaze at one’s own navel for ninety minutes. The usage of a narrative that initially seems to be about a few characters in a room, but expands to jump forward and backward in time to flesh out the story, keeps the endeavor lively and compelling.
The acting helps, as the two main leads, James Wilder and Zuher Khan, both deliver solid, if sometimes uneven, performances. You believe that either man is capable of anything, and since neither exudes any sense that they should be trusted, there’s a constant unease that heightens the mystery.
While I enjoyed the journey, the film seemed to take a few missteps in its resolving minutes. Certain plot developments, and character reveals, felt a little too forced; it was time to bring things to a head, so the film pushed the drama more than it had been naturally occurring and developing prior. Not to say that the choices don’t ultimately work, or can’t be justified, when you look back on the tale, only in that they felt unnatural. It was a push or two that was maybe just too strong for my tastes.
Ultimately, though, Three Holes, Two Brads, and a Smoking Gun managed to make a film about struggling screenwriters alluring and engaging. The level of moral bankruptcy that reveals itself reminded me of The Player; if you’re going to find comparisons to a film, that’s not a bad one to have.
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