Directed by Travis Lee Eller & Tino Luciano
Starring Travis Lee Eller, Jim Kelly, & Jeff Elsey
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Tense and dramatic short film Bad Men and the Devil is primarily a Western in genre and themes, capturing the innate storytelling ethos and atmosphere so familiar with movie fans. From the villains that make up the characters to the stylish costumes and foreboding score, every part of this short, from filmmakers Travis Lee Eller and Tino Luciano, taps into the world of the Wild West.
Inside a darkened saloon sits an array of gunslinger types, casually drinking in stony silence. Shortly after someone enters the bar and orders a drink, the silence is broken by a cacophony of bullets being fired, leaving only one survivor - the Bounty Hunter (Travis Lee Eller).
The main body of the film is then made up with a static shot of Eller delivering a monologue to camera, in which he speaks in vague notions of evil deeds and retribution, explaining how he came to be in the saloon. Aside from a few shuddering cliches, the dialogue in this section is pretty enjoyable and a couple of moments are genuinely startling - such as the Bounty Hunter revelling in a maniacal laugh.
Few indie films attempt a genre piece with such passion, getting right down to the details. The tone is well-sculpted, the aesthetics are perfectly rendered, and whilst there is little to chew on cinematically, the audience is drawn into the central character's motivation incredibly effectively. That being said, the film was a little light on story. It seemed a shame to not develop it more and considering all the heavy lifting of creating mood had been done superbly, more development of the plot was not a big ask.
Thematically the film chomps on some pretty stale bread. There is not a huge amount to take away from Bad Men and the Devil. Other Western stories have told this kind of fable with better characters and development. However, the appeal of a short film like this should be seen more from the feel rather than the points or social commentary it makes.
From a filmmaking standpoint, though, there is a lot to enjoy here. There is a formidable attention to crafting a viewing experience, by Eller and Luciano, that is immersive and boldly engaging. Fans of the Western genre will delight in the resplendent world that has been created, letting themselves be wrapped up in the dark and dirty feel whilst Eller delivers a character made up of a tried-and-tested formula that is timelessly entertaining.