Directed by: #BarnumNixonSmith
Written by: #JoshLambie
Set over seven months, Mug Shot follows bored and dejected police officer Karen Baker (Kirsten Maguire), after she is reassigned as a processing officer when an injury leaves her unable to perform her usual duties. But when one of her regulars, a charming and seemingly misunderstood repeat offender named Billy (Calum Verrecchia) begins to show an interest in her, their relationship begins to grow, shifting into dangerous territories.
Solid performances from a small cast of three with interesting-enough characters run through this short tale (around ten minutes) of deception. Sadly, all the characters ever were was ‘there’. At no point did I ever feel emotionally invested in any of them: they were there, and I enjoyed watching them, but they couldn’t get my sympathies, and I didn’t really care about what happened to any of them by the end. I also found that Billy’s actions seemed to lack motive. Without trying to give anything away—why did he do what he did? His efforts, seemingly deliberate, defy reason. Over seven months, Billy was arrested on four different occasions: May, June, October and December. He clearly hasn’t been spending much time inside, so what exactly is his end goal here, and why?
The narrative here gave me serious Ex Machina vibes, only with the gender roles reversed and considerably fewer robots! This is never a bad thing, of course, as it’s a brilliant piece of science-fiction cinema. And while Mug Shot lacks the same level of character engagement, the underlying idea is handled incredibly well. The story flows flawlessly from beginning to end, and the changes in chemistry between the characters is brilliantly displayed and thoroughly convincing.
Aesthetically, the movie is well made, at least for what’s required here. A rather minimalist score from George Oughton places emphasis on the conversations between Karen and Billy, and some concise editing (Simon Fox) allows us time for contemplation before we’re whisked away to the next scene. But it was perhaps Ambroice Leclerc’s cinematography which impressed me the most. It’s a terribly drab and bland affair, and the police station has no discernable distinction from one room to the next. Not the sort of thing I usually look for in cinematography, if I’m honest. Here, however, it’s a huge boon, as it brings out that sense of alienation, melancholy and ennui that’s so important to our understanding of Karen’s motives and the decisions she makes.
It’s a shame then that I couldn’t get on board with it more. And, if I’m honest, I’m not even sure why I couldn’t. It’s a well-made piece of work, made by incredibly competent people. I just couldn’t connect to the characters enough or understand Billy’s endgame at all. And that’s so important in a film such as this. As a consequence, it ends up feeling a little flat by the end.