It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
An odd mix of beautifully bleak atmosphere and hammily mannered performances, "A Single Shot" is simultaneously understated and overpowering.
This backwoods neo-noir is the latest film from director David M. Rosenthal, who drew some honest moments out of sheer formula in the 2011 drama "Janie Jones," about an estranged father and daughter who connect by playing rock music together. "A Single Shot," which Matthew F. Jones wrote based on his novel of the same name, is actually at its most effective when no one says anything at all.
The first 14 minutes of the film are essentially wordless, with the detailed sound design and cold, blue images of early-morning West Virginia telling the story. A dog barks. Birds chirp. Cows moo. And Sam Rockwell’s clunky boots crunch on the ground as he illegally hunts deer in the woods around his trailer home. (Spaniard Edward Grau, who shot Tom Ford's gorgeous "A Single Man," is the cinematographer.)
With his camouflage baseball cap, scruffy beard and stoic demeanor, Rockwell's character, John Moon, is clearly a man who has fallen on hard times and is struggling to survive. But when he sees movement in the trees and pulls the trigger on his shotgun, he ends up hitting and killing a young woman instead. Naturally, he panics—but as he scrambles to stash the body, he finds her makeshift campsite, which includes a box filled with cash.