Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Mall", new thriller, provides an unusual twist on the mass shooter problem and perhaps the gun control debate

The new B-movie thriller “Mall”, directed by Joseph Hahn (“Linkin Park”), adapted by Sam Bisbee from the novel by Eric Bogosian, depicts a horrific attack on a suburban Los Angeles shopping mall by one gunman, with the arsenal of a whole infantry platoon, but provides a few ironic plot twists among the shoppers running around, almost the way Robert Altman might have.  Normally, in an event like this, the Mall would be closed and locked down, but the sniper is going after the cops, hindering the process.  In fact, the attacker seems to be concerned only with attacking his former boss and then the police (both LAPD and security guards), not civilians.  He bears some resemblance to Eric Matthew Frein, who was finally caught in northeast Pennsylvania in late 2014 after hunting down cops (and I suspect that will make a documentary film subject soon).
The film opens with Malcom (James Frecheville) shooting his wife (presumably) and torching her trailer with an accelerant.  You hate to see a good-looking guy like this be the villain.  But indeed he is.  The smoking is a giveaway. (And most mass shooting incidents are perpetrated by white males, not blacks or Latinos.)  He proceeds to insult an overweight female clerk in a convenience store, and even terrorizes her into not calling the cops (a tactic recently reported in the news in Maryland in a string of restaurant robberies, so this really happens sometimes).  He then heads to the Mall to hunt down his former boss.
The film also shows lots of animal and other trip-like images, suggestive of schizophrenia, or of drug trips.  Malcom seems to be at the end of life, perhaps from meth.
The film, early on, sets up a nice teen character Jeff (21-year-old Cameron Monaghan).  A cop (Ron Yuan) finds him crashing on the Mall parking lot, and Jeff asks, in typical radical Left-wing fashion, why people can’t sleep wherever they want and suggests that Mall property owners are capitalist pigs.  But as the movie progresses, Jeff becomes its nicest character and the only one to help others, especially people who “deserve” much worse.  Curiously, the Jeff also sees some of the “drug trip” visions, which give him a strange empathy.
Another major player is Danny, the middle-aged “creep” (Vincent D’Onofrio). The scene where he is so quickly arrested after playing “peeping Tom” on a department store changing room where a female customer carelessly leaves the door open, is quite well done and convincing.  Like, don’t do this.  But then the cops who take him become targets.  A major subplot of the movie concerns how other people in the mall (especially one particular woman, and then eventually kindhearted Jeff) treat him, is a major point of the film.
Reid Ewing appears as Becket, a somewhat dominating young man whose character is named after a Medieval saint.  Though experienced with substances, he does seem to have the interests of others (like Jeff) at heart with his street smarts.  But the movie rather dead-ends on the story of this character.
There are others, like the motel housewife who seduces Jeff, and the other girl who tortures Danny (and that scene has some rather disturbing ideas).

Does the film add to the debate on gun control and background checks?  No, even armed shoppers could not have defended themselves against someone like this, but the guy really was just after cops.  How did Malcom accumulate the military arsenal?  Piers Morgan will weigh in on this movie. 
The film can be rented on Amazon but doesn’t seem to have its own site yet (Freestyle Releasing). 

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