Reviews

'The Power of Few' Is Experimental in More Ways Than One

J.C. Macek III

The Power of Few, as its title suggests, affirms a faith in transformation initiated from outside the usual framework.


The Power of Few

Director: Leone Marucci
Cast: Tione Johnson, Christopher Walken, Christian Slater, Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, Nicky Whelan, Moon Bloodgood, Larry King, Juvenile
Rated: R
Studio: Steelyard Pictures
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-02-15 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

The Power of Few follows Fueisha (Tione Johnson) as she walks through the streets of a very rough New Orleans neighborhood. Just 12 years old, Fueisha is especially observant of the neighborhood denizens, and Leone Marucci's film tells their stories in a nonlinear anthology. This professional looking, independently produced film uses its fractured storyline to repay the careful viewer, as each of its overlapping tales is told from a different perspective and each plot is linked to the overall storyline.

The film -- platforming across the US -- takes its time in this telling, gradually revealing various links and different actions' ramifications. Much of this unfolding is smart, but it can be slow and confusing, losing and then regaining its grip on the complicated plot. This includes references to the stolen Shroud of Turin even as it follows the adventures of a couple of terrorist-hunting FBI agents (Christian Slater and Nicky Whelan), a couple of philosophical vagrants (Christopher Walken and Jordan Prentice), a couple of drive-by shooters (Anthony Anderson and Juvenile), and a kid (Devon Gearhart) who steals medicine to treat his ailing baby brother.

Sometimes, these connections between disparate pieces are surprising. It can be exhilarating to watch a couple of characters walking through the stories of others and even providing hints to enhance someone else's storyline. In this, The Power of Few presents viewers with a pleasurable challenge of detection. Less happily, the individual stories are less than persuasive. Each sequence relies on convenience (a couple played by Jesse Bradford and Q'orianka Kilcher falls in love at first sight) and contrivance (an unlikely gun theft arms someone who just happens to need it) in order to manipulate individuals into each other’s stories at precise but also awkward points. If the pieces fit together, the pieces themselves are imperfect and the reasons they fit don't always make sense. When The Power of Few lapses into possible science fiction and the supernatural elements, we might appreciate the experimenting but lament the inelegance, up to and including an awfully close to literal deus ex machina.

Indeed, The Power of Few's production itself was reportedly something of an experiment. From the start of pre-production in 2006, Marucci and Kilcher (who also produced) engaged the potential audience in the filmmaking process. Visitors to an early official website were involved in the production of the film, from casting to editing, as recounted in this explanation of the 'interactive film'.

The result of this potentially innovative process is uneven and far from seamless, but the film features some beautiful compositions, whether a spectacular car crash at the intersection of two stories or earnest, revelatory dialogue between Walken and Prentice. A slowly spinning quarter on the street at pavement level manages to extend the tension of a surprising scene of violence. A camera attached to an actor, focused on his face, conveys his desperation. Wide shots and close-ups are equally clear and detailed.

The Power of Few still feels very “independent” and, more importantly, original. Even if its cast is filled with well-known actors, the film embraces risky, unconventional storytelling. In this it recalls early Quentin Tarantino works like Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, which also offer nonlinear stories, or 21 Grams and Rashomon, which feature fragmented stories told from different perspectives. Unlike these precursors, The Power of Few's innovation is outweighed by its flaws, its mostly unfunny comic relief, improbable plot turns, and well-meaning but heavy-handed philosophical discussions.

But still, the film raises questions about how and why we see so many films that are not experimental, that tell the same stories or follow familiar structures. We might hope that the world of crowd-sourcing may provide for more experimental possibilities, but those films still need to be marketed. If this film's early support might provide a built-in initial audience, we might imagine still more innovation applied to making the product more widely visible. The Power of Few, as its title suggests, affirms a faith in transformation initiated from outside the usual framework. This makes for a viewing experience that is sometimes thrilling and other times perplexing. It is never, however, what you've seen before.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image