The irony and timely arrival of the conscientious and stirring drama Shot should not be lost on a majority of savvy movie-goers and television addicts. First, the film’s lead, Noah Wyle (also one of the many producers behind this urban narrative’s stark commentary on senseless violence), played a young dedicated doctor used to helping critically injured patients in the ER on network television for many years and now, he plays a severely wounded gunshot victim who finds himself rushed to the ER with his precious life on the line. For the second, this harrowing and thought-provoking medical thriller has something cynical to say about the impact of violence with guns — both intentional and unintentional.
From the youthful pitfalls of experiencing bullying and daily harassment to the inevitable impulse in anxiously grabbing a “piece” to settle an unfinished score, Shot takes a noble shot — albeit an uneven and sometimes manipulative one — to convey its cogent point of view about the arbitrary savagery and its crucial effect on individuals and to a larger extent society. Director/producer Jeremy Kagan (mainly known for his 80’s dramatic feel-good gems such as “The Chosen” and “The Journey of Natty Gann”) zealously tackles a broad-minded subject matter about gun control that is both knowingly controversial and confrontational for which the polarizing topic should spark some debate.
Nevertheless, Shot with all its well-intentional angst, fatalistic despair and piercingly profound revelations that touch upon explosive elements such as bullying, intimidation and finally retaliation is too slight in its declaration as a probing narrative to truly dig under the skin and fiercely address the issue that guns (and the irresponsible folks that are in possession of them) are unpredictable and out of control . . . period. On a small visceral scale, however, the film is absolutely haunting and perceptive about the effect a stray bullet has to an innocent individual’s existence and how it changes and shapes his perspective.
Wyle (“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”) portrays Mark Newman, a Los Angeles-based freelance film sound mixer in the act of adjusting the right kind of volume for what amounts to be a flashy, bloody scene in a western flick (an obvious, but nice, little touch for Kagan to sardonically suggest that even the entertainment industry is complicit in promoting exploitative violence). Well, Mark will soon cross paths with his own real-life experience in a one-way shootout when he is hit in the chest by a stray bullet during an argument with his soon-to-be-divorced-from therapist wife Pheobe (Sharon Leal, “Why Did I Get Married Too?”). The unlucky Mark may have dodged a figurative bullet in staying married to the frustrated Phoebe, but he was not fortunate enough to escape one piercing his chest just above the heart.
The misguided perpetrator behind Mark’s gunshot wound is 17-year old Miguel (Jorge Lendeborg Jr., “Spider-Man: Homecoming”). Miguel, bullied at school, obtained the illegal gun from his cousin (Rafael Cebrián, “Realive”) as protection, only to accidentally discharge it due to his unfamiliarity with using it. Naturally panicky and overwhelmed, the terrified Miguel goes on the run while trying to figure out how to deal with what he’s done. Both he and Mark are on separate journeys — trying to negotiate the sudden, for-the-worse shifting of their lives.
Kagan willfully establishes the frantic trials of disillusionment, depression and denial as he sets up the split screen technique to follow his two plagued protagonists as they go through the physical and psychological obstacles of their lingering dilemmas. Shock-stricken, Mark undergoes quick and efficient emergency procedures at the hospital to save his life as a guilty-minded Phoebe awaits on the sidelines. In the meantime, a harried Miguel seeks guidance and support — some recommend turning himself in to the authorities because it was a “misunderstanding shooting,” others say to keep a low profile and his mouth shut (as his skeptical mother would remind him because he is an urban kid of color and . . . well, you get the gist of her concerns). In any event, both the hallucinatory Mark (we are introduced to the obligatory flashback bits that push along the patient’s redemptive issues) and frightened Miguel are placed through the frenetic hoops of Kagan’s dramatically erratic roller-coaster of rage, resentment and remorse.
Shot does authentically hint at the moral emptiness in play, as all the parties involved are linked to the unanswered epidemic that courts the violence whether one is a willing participant or not. It is a deeply scary and disconcerting reality to confront and conquer. But while the script, written by William Lambom and Anneke Campbell, has its overtures fingering the political poison that is the gun control platform, it feels more relaxed and confident in acting as a training session for first year medical students than anything else.
Wyle is genuinely thought-provoking in his performance as a complex man befell by terrible circumstances. The startling showcasing of medical protocol in reference to a gunshot wound is frantically edgy and Wyle’s bandaged and beleaguered Mark is plausibly moving as he comes to grips with his situation and his cynicism and paranoia gradually escalates. Lendeborg Jr.’s Miguel is also suitably inspired as the troubled youth racked with fear, shame, indecision and emotional aimlessness. Interestingly, his character is a walking casualty that has been woefully underrepresented — a systematic and symbolic sacrifice of today’s youth.
The vicious circle of emotional/psychological/mental malaise through marital discontentment or relentless school-ground bullying is engrossing and sympathetically realized. Additionally, there is a newfound appreciation to gain for what the medically-trained professionals go through when administering emergency life saving techniques. However, Shot needed to embrace the gun control pulpit more fully than only scratching its surface and playing it sentimentally safe.
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