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EMAV Film Review: 'Dealer' a strong calling card for local talents ★★★☆☆

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

★★★☆☆ - Satisfying

A sort of all-star jam of notable local filmmakers, the omnibus feature “Dealer” showcases contributions from five Las Vegas filmmakers and/or filmmaking teams: Lundon Boyd, Jeremy Cloe, Mike and Jerry Thompson, Ryan and Cody LeBoeuf, and Adam Zielinski. First premiered at the Las Vegas Film Festival in 2016, the movie is finally being released to the public this week on VOD from Amazon and in a limited theatrical run in LA. Although it’s been in limbo for a couple of years, “Dealer” remains a strong calling card for local talents, who display some of their greatest strengths in their individual segments.

Boyd writes, directs and stars in the movie’s wraparound segments, which establish his character Kelly as an aimless slacker, bored with his job as a casino card dealer and frustrated with a life that he feels is going nowhere. Kelly gets an unexpected jolt when he arrives home to discover his roommate Trevor (Chris Russell) covered in blood, and Trevor’s mysterious boss Mr. X (indie film staple Pat Healy) informs Kelly that he’ll be taking over Trevor’s drug-delivery route, whether he likes it or not.

From there, Kelly heads out on four different misadventures in criminal activity, over the course of a single 24-hour period. Although each segment is written and directed by a different team, Boyd holds the entire movie together as Kelly, returning as filmmaker for a mid-movie interlude and for the wrap-up at the end. Even when Boyd isn’t the one behind the camera, he makes sure that Kelly is the same overwhelmed, confused yet strangely affable guy, and he conveys a sense of character development over the course of the disparate segments.

Maybe it’s a little tough to believe that Kelly could go through all of these experiences in a single day (or at least manage to do so without dying and/or going insane), but the movie takes on a surreal, sometimes dreamlike tone that indicates not everything is meant to be taken literally. That’s especially evident in the middle two segments, from the Thompsons and the LeBoeufs, in which Kelly experiences inexplicable misadventures with some extremely odd characters.

The Thompsons pair Kelly up with a disturbingly cheerful henchman known only as What’s His Name (played by Mike Thompson) for a darkly funny descent into an absurdist murder plot, with a surprising amount of pun-based humor. Mike Thompson is hilarious as the stone-cold killer who really, really loves wordplay, and he has a great dynamic with Boyd.

The LeBoeufs get into even stranger territory, as Kelly makes a delivery at a swanky hotel (shot at the Artisan) to a mysterious Romanian man who’s storing a giant eel in his bathtub. This segment is the most impressionistic and bizarre stretch in the movie, and it’s also the one that would work the best as its own standalone short film (it’s no surprise that the movie requires another connecting segment from Boyd to get Kelly back on track for the final delivery).

Cloe’s and Zielinski’s segments are more straightforward, with Cloe creating a sweet (but sometimes clunky) comedy about Kelly connecting with an optimistic young woman who’s just getting her life together, and Zielinski coming up with a fast-paced action piece that teams Kelly up with a reckless undercover cop (Luke Jones). Both of these segments are solid and watchable, but they don’t exhibit the same creativity and distinctiveness as the contributions from the Thompsons and the LeBoeufs.

The overall package has the balance of a good shorts program at a film festival (and “Dealer” in fact played at Boulder City’s Dam Short Film Festival in 2017), while also offering a mostly satisfactory wrap-up in Boyd’s concluding segment. All of the filmmakers involved have worked on other projects since “Dealer” was completed, but now that it’s available to a wider audience, it should provide a good boost for some deserving talents.

“Dealer” is available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon Video. It opens November 3 at the Ahrya Fine Arts by Laemmle in Los Angeles.

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