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New Line Home Cinema presents
"It was an accident. It all happened so fast."
DVD Review11:14, writer/director Greg Marcks' möbius strip of a comedic thriller, played at film festivals in 2003 but never showed in theaters, save for a few screens in San Francisco last summer. Now it's on DVD, and while it's a better film than its direct-to-video status implies, I also totally understand why New Line was wary about promoting it to mainstream audiences. A perverse, at times downright unpleasant black comedy, it's a five-act joke that covers the same story from five different points of view, and ties everything up in an entirely satisfying manner, but getting to the punchline takes a bit more effort than it should.
It all starts off with a mysterious car accident. Jack (Henry Thomas) is driving drunk when suddenly, seeming out of nowhere, a body appears on his windshield. He doesn't react well to the possibility of a reckless manslaughter charge, and attempts to hide the corpse (his plan doesn't go too well once the police arrive). Suddenly, the film rewinds as we cut to a different storyline, and learn a bit more about what else was going on in town at the same time Jack wasn't following the rules of the road. Aaron (Blake Heron) is trying to figure out a way to secure $500 to pay for his girlfriend Cheri's (Rachel Leigh Cook) abortion. A trio of joyriding teens (Ben Foster, Colin Hanks, Stark Sands) is looking for a night on the town. Buzzy (Hilary Swank) just wants to put an end to another day as a mindless convenience store clerk. And Frank (Patrick Swayze) just wants to figure out what to do with the body he found in the graveyard... the fresh, unburied one.
Every plot point occurs over the course of about 20 minutes, and Marcks' script does a great job of zipping from character to character, rewinding scenes and following tangents, tying together some rather crazy, disparate elements—the aforementioned dead bodies, a severed penis, a missing bowling ball, a robbery attempt, mistaken identity and bizarre coincidence—to good effect. Obviously inspired by the likes of Memento and Pulp Fiction, the film finds great joy in examining fickle Fate's rather unfortunate sense of humor.
11:14 has a killer plot, but not what I'd call a great script. I love the general tone, and the way everything eventually ties together, but getting to the end requires patience (even though the picture runs a scant 85 minutes). The biggest problem is the dialogue—when it isn't awkward, it's utterly nondescript. With dialogue as good as the concept, this could really have been a killer movie. Instead, it reads like a first draft and feels like a missed opportunity. I can only imagine what someone like Tarantino could do with this material (aside from adding in a John Wayne Bobbit reference amidst all the penis severing commentary, of course).
Though the film is obviously hampered by its low budget, Marcks has given it a certain sense of rough-edged style. There are a number of memorable shots, and some sequences that work very well, including a shocking sex scene that expertly sets up a punchline that's actually already been delivered, thanks to the overlapping structure. But for every moment that works (a comedy routine between two would-be robbers at a convenience store), there's one that really doesn't, in a major way.
I'm a bit torn about 11:14, actually. I like it so much in concept, but it loses something in the execution. If nothing else, it's worth watching just to see how it all wraps up.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: For a low-budget film, 11:14 looks only OK. Dark scenes are very grainy at times, and that's a problem, as there are so many of them. Otherwise, detail is only fair, and colors aren't as crisp as they could be. It's watchable, but not pretty, though it's hard to say how much fault lies with the original film elements.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 and DTS audio mixes are very similar and serve the film well enough, presenting dialogue clearly, but don't expect much input from the surrounds, which aren't very active except during a few key sequences (specifically, whenever there's a car accident).
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Havoc
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Greg Marcks
Packaging: Keep Case
I'll get to the standard commentaries and such in a bit, but I first want to mention what I consider one of the best bonuses I've seen in a long time, in that it perfectly fits the film and make good use of the technological capabilities of DVD: the character jump option. When turned on, this feature lets you control the way the film plays out. Any time two storylines intersect, you can hit enter on the remote to follow a different character. It not only makes it easier to piece together the movie's timeline, it's just fun, and gives you a good reason to watch the movie again.
Director Greg Marcks provides a low-key commentary, and spends most of his time discussing character motivations and pointing out onscreen trivia. I would have rather heard his feelings on the film getting shelved for two years, but who knows when it was recorded?
A collection of four brief deleted scenes don't add much, and neither can I sing the praises of 46 Minutes to Midnight: The Making of 11:14, a pretty standard promotional piece that leans heavily on soundbites from the cast (though oddly enough, Hilary Swank, who has won an Oscar for playing a transvestite, reveals her character was originally written as a man).
Rounding out the package are a storyboard-to-screen comparison for two scenes; the trailer, which should under no circumstances be viewed before the film (seriously); and a clip for another direct-to-DVD film, Havoc.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsAn uneven but inventive, almost giddy black comedy, 11:14 never had much of a shot in theaters but will likely attract an appreciative audience on DVD. There's certainly a lot to like about New Line's presentation, including a bonus feature that actually makes good use of the flexibility of the DVD format.
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