Directed by Matheus Ronn
Written by Matheus Ronn and Mans Reimer
Starring Nikki Tilmouth, C. J. Baker, Chris Kohls, Kassie Johnston
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Theatre can be a dangerous industry and no less so in short film Jury Duty from filmmakers Matheus Ronn and Mans Reimer. Utilising a classic noir aesthetic and a 'whodunnit' structure, this is a cool and calculated story that unravels magnificently as the audience are encouraged to act as the jury to the violent act which has befallen one of the characters.
Enigmatic diva, and the catalyst for the film, Iris Holliday (Nikki Tilmouth) opens the movie by rehearsing lines on a stage whilst her understudy Mollie (Kassie Johnston) prompts her from the seats in front. The play is Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet, and is being put on by Iris's husband Clark (Chris Kohls) and co-producer Spencer (C. J. Baker). After collapsing on stage and being announced dead, the remaining suspects provide their accounts of the events leading up to Iris's demise with increasing intrigue.
Shot in black and white and set in the 50's, Jury Duty is an obvious throwback to classic cinema. There is a wonderful newsreel section near the beginning of the short movie that not only provided excellent background to the characters, but also made huge leaps in cementing the tone and atmosphere of the piece. This was further developed by the great performances across the board.
The performers were a theatrical treat, in particular Tilmouth. Her starlet behaviour and formidable nastiness made for a wonderful central conflict to make the actions of the other characters more convincing. I particular enjoyed the line delivery of Baker, whose control and intensity made Spencer a fantastically engaging character. Johnston is really enjoyable as the much put-out actor, as is Kohls as the enduringly patient husband of Iris.
As with any whodunnit, the themes are largely predictable. There's jealousy, revenge, lust, anger. What was much appreciated about Ronn's direction, though, was the way in which these themes are explored. All the characters are suspects and there is no neutral person for the audience to use as an entryway, such as a bullish detective or inept cop. Instead the viewer is front and centre for the interrogations, allowing a profound sense of culpability to be inflicted upon us as an audience member. A remarkable feat executed well.
Aesthetically pleasing with great characters, performances, and filmmaking, Jury Duty is the kind of film that excites and entertains as it delivers a cinematic experience that is wholly immersive.
Watch the official movie trailer for Jury Duty below...