Pocketman and Cargoboy
Review by Mark Schwab
October 16th, 2018
Writer/director Clay Moffatt has been on my radar for a couple of years now. I first experienced his horror film SILVER WOODS in 2016, then his ghost story OCTOBER FLOWERS in 2017. Now I am pleased he is back with his newest and most ambitious film yet - POCKETMAN AND CARGOBOY. This one is a far cry genre-wise from his previous spookfests and has many exciting pieces in it but it still struggles with some production aspects that keep it from rising above the micro budget level.
Moffatt's story seems to combine elements of LOOPER, SPY KIDS and a dash of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS as we are introduced to baseball-cap-wearing secret agent Jayden Hill retrieving a huge emerald from a bad dude in a warehouse. Hill uses some high tech gadgetry to scan inside (immediately suggesting we are just a bit into the future) and the fists and feet start flying once Hill and his co-horts get inside. I was pleasantly surprised with this opening action scene; it's blocked well, edited tightly and most importantly it's fun. Moffatt was really onto something different here compared to his previous films and clearly having a blast doing it. I also must mention that he is three for three on cool opening credit sequences.
After the energetic opening though, it crashed to Earth with a way-too-long scene between agent Hill and his boss. This sequence establishes a lot of the foundation for the bulk of the film as Hill forces the agency to fund a secret school to train kids in all ways Bond. I know it's an important scene for the plot but it's very overwritten and grinds the movie to a complete halt early on, which is always tough for a low-budget, sci-fi/action film to recover from.
Agent Hill at first recruits two young boys into his little school where they get the title nicknames (one always has his pants pockets turned out and the other sports cargo shorts at all times). They go through their paces learning to shoot and fight as well as (strangely) learning math and literature. When the school gets attacked, the movie takes a turn into sci-fi territory involving time travel and the fate of the world riding on Agent Hill's young recruits (which by this time also includes a young girl).
Compared to his previous feature films I've reviewed here, Moffatt shows some strides made in improving his filmmaking. One aspect that works shockingly well are the action scenes sprinkled throughout. They rise above the low budget easily and I really kept wishing there were more of them. But the two biggest issues from his previous work still haunt him here; too much spoken exposition to keep the story (or stories) straight and acting performances that have a lot of trouble speaking all of that exposition on camera in even a semi-convincing manner.
Still...all of this is still kind of fun in a shaggy way as the movie careens in all sorts of crazy (but admittedly very creative and good-natured) plot directions and obviously doesn't take itself too seriously. One could say this falls into the "keep your expectations low and you'll have a good time" category. But, darn it, I see some real potential in Clay Moffatt's micro budget stories; they are totally original and fresh in a sea of indie copycats. They have a vibe of creativity that is infectious and an energy among the cast and crew that can't be hidden behind the dim lighting set ups.
POCKETMAN AND CARGOBOY is genuinely a step forward for Moffatt and I'm more intrigued than ever for his next film. I just want to challenge him to cut back on his dialogue, use more visuals to tell his stories and work just as hard on getting convincing performances from his cast as he does on his plots and action scenes. I know he has it in him.