A reclusive veteran is drawn into a housewife’s plan to dispatch her husband
Director and writer Armin Siljkovic has clearly learned Filmmaking 101; there are some nice close-ups and transitions in Death Waits for No Man, he can do shot-reverse-shot, and he knows a little about colour schemes reflecting mood. But what this waste of an hour and 10 minutes boils down to is a terminal failure in the script department, each plot development and character interaction duller than the last.
If I describe Siljkovic like a student director it’s because Death Waits for No Man feels like a stretched student short, where one man’s singular vision has blotted out all constructive criticism. The plot centres around the noir cliche of a sultry yet bruised female, Lily (Angelique Pretorius), roping in a patsy, Uzal (Bradley Snedeker), to off her husband, Sinclair (Corey Rieger), for the life insurance money. Uzal is conflicted over eliminating a fellow veteran, even if he is sadistic and volatile, leading to a cat and mouse game among the trio. That this wasn’t called Veteran’s Day in spite of this being a recurring theme of the film is an irritation, made worse by the spectacularly generic title decided on.
The concept is a lazy ripoff of Double Indemnity and the plethora of moody protagonists moping around the film world. Every stylistic choice shows Siljkovic’s awareness of the genre with no attempt to build on it. Particularly frustrating are the mile-wide plot holes; both Lily and Sinclair are surprised at Uzal being a veteran long after they are provided with this information by other characters.
Truffaut remarks on the audience remembering not what we hear but what we see. Almost all of the plot points here are discussed at an exhausting length, delivered woodenly by one-dimensional characters. The majority of the action takes place in a suburban home bathed in neon; what begins as a mildly interesting if very obvious choice quickly descends into visual repetitiveness.
At least this isn’t a cryptic noir, and the plot does follow A to B to C. Unfortunately every plot development is painfully obvious, and the imagination it takes to propel a real time thriller in one location is absent here. In fact the best moments occur before Uzal is lured to the house, wisecracking creeper Finkton (Bill Meyer) all but stealing the show with his two scenes early on.
Some might also consider this an erotic thriller, with plans to film a couple having sex and talk of rape fantasies. Yet all it is is talk, and for all the laboured twists and turns, Death Waits For No Man could make a 12A rating. The film also doesn’t really understand the difference between BDSM and domestic abuse, and it’s a further shame the first time I’ve encountered on film the real issue of genital damage to soldiers is in a lurid and strained plot point here.
Advice to Siljkovic is stick to the directing and trust someone else to write the screenplay. If they can trust you, that is…
Death Waits for No Man is expected to hit cinemas and VOD late 2017.