Written & Directed by: #MikeCuenca
Shot on a shoe-string budget, Mike Cuenca’s first feature is an absurdist politically incorrect comedy chronicling vignettes based around Jerry Powell, a gas-huffing thief with memory distrust syndrome. On the brink of insanity, Powell finds himself chased by a pulpy gang of criminals as he attempts to deliver a mysterious briefcase for a money-launderer.
Have I just travelled through a time machine? What I just experienced was akin to a cinema classic. Elements from three of my favourite filmmakers were present in Cuenca’s remarkably crazy Jerry Powell and the Delusions of Grandeur. The cinematic style of Martin Scorsese, the heightened dramatic nature of Quentin Tarantino and the comedic creativity of Kevin Smith, all blend together in what I’d call one of the strongest debuts from a writer/director in many, many years.
An indie feature hasn’t kept me as engaged and, frankly, as entertained as this in a long while. Through every nonsensical turn this film took, I was there for the ride the entire time, due in part to the performances. The leading Joey Halter creates a shifty, bouncy persona that he completely loses himself in. The dialogue written for his character very quickly became my favourite part of the film. Penned by Cuenca, the screenplay ticks along at a delightful pace, which left me with little time to wonder what might happen next. The cast around Halter is fantastic, also. Paul Elia having many great scenes alongside him, and Azmyth Kaminski breathing life into one of the strangest characters I’ve ever seen.
I found myself more than once chuckling at the quirkiness of this film, and it doesn’t end with the writing. The music choices for certain scenes feel inspired by some kind of good fever dream. In fact, the whole film feels much like that. The black and white cinematography by Amberlie Bankoff is as gritty as an early 90s starter flick, well-composed with swift camera swivels and pans. Each frame is oozing with style. To think that this was pulled off with roughly $1,000 could surprise a person. But we know Kevin Smith made Clerks at the store he worked at during closing hours, with some friends and some crazy ideas. I think that anyone who’s willing to pursue a project with a minuscule budget and threadbare equipment is worthy of being great in this field, especially when it turns out as enjoyable as this. Jerry Powell and the Delusions of Grandeur truly feels like the beginnings of a gifted filmmaker’s succesful journey.