Directed by: Will Masheter
Written by: Will Masheter
Starring: Will Masheter, Kent Goldfinch
Will Masheter’s 4 Queens has style and is made with a lot of verve. The camera is energetically active as if on a lookout. From the beginning, you sense something is off about this setting. The color red dominates almost every frame, indicating danger is afoot. But you are not sure when, where, and how the trouble would strike. It’s dark, and evil lurks in the darkness of night. Eventually, the red color would spill in the form of liquid. However, that happens towards the end. In the meantime, let secrets be hidden in the shadows.
4 Queens starts off on a simple note: Mikey (Masheter) meets the kingpin of an underground criminal enterprise named Tzar (Kent Goldfinch) for a game of poker. It's not just the two of them as Tzar’s other goons, too, are in as players. Cards are drawn, stakes are raised, whiskey is served, and the boys disappear in paradise. The sounds of laughter and the shuffling of cards are exaggerated and amplified to the highest volume. The camera spins as if drowning in its own hangover. Given the runtime to be around 24 minutes or so, you ponder whether Masheter’s objective here is merely stylistic experimentation. Is he training his lens to capture situations through cool techniques by utilizing poker as a backdrop?
These musings are interrupted when women enter the room, and it's from here 4 Queens begins to reveal its true intent. You understand the reason behind Mikey’s attentiveness (it’s not only related to poker). You see what those red shades were pointing to. The shadows in the back don’t say “vice place” anymore. In retrospect, they seem to be converging with the mysteries of this film.
4 Queens is less about its characters than about the situation they have gotten themselves into. Elements of suspense and tension arise not from the people but from the atmosphere. The team has built such a nice set and developed such a thrilling mood that you don’t find it jarring when the gears are shifted in another direction. The short was shot beneath one of the producer’s houses (Colette Brown, if I am not wrong). The crew was allowed to shoot freely for many months. That feeling of freedom is apparent in 4 Queens, given the way Masheter immerses himself into his work and makes some ambitious choices unabashedly without fear of losing the audience. More pleasing is the fact that his decisions pay off satisfactorily. It’s a win-win case, everybody.