Review by Mark Schwab
May 16th, 2016
I was quite pleased when Writer/Director Douglas Reese asked me to review his latest feature film WARWICK. I had reviewed a previous feature film of his (MAYSVILLE) and had been pretty tough on it. So it shows a lot of character to dive into the Diamond in the Rough Film hotseat once again.
Director Reese practices a very specific type of filmmaking in the true auteur sense - he writes, produces, directs and acts in his films while executing a distinct style of long takes, scarce dialogue and characters doing "ordinary" things like walking in a park, driving in traffic and, in WARWICK, being incredibly restless with sexual tension in a Seattle hotel room. Although I don't feel WARWICK is entirely successful, I do think it is more satisfying than MAYSVILLE in certain ways and I did see (according to Reese) a "rough cut" which still needed color corection, sound mixing and some picture tightening. So my 2-Diamond rating here is a bit conditional and subject to change upon a final polish of it.
With that caveat, Ashton Burch stars as Emmet - a young man who has flown in to Seattle for a job interview. He lands at the airport, rents a car, checks into his hotel room, unpacks, grabs the vape pipe and starts to stare at the walls. After doing a little sight seeing around Seattle, he runs into Phoenix (played by Director Reese) loitering rather mysteriously in the hotel's hallways where they both exchange glances that last a bit too long for just a casual acknowledgement.
Now writer/director Reese isn't really interested in plot twists or showy "actor moments". What Reese is hunting is what Andy Warhol and his protege Paul Morrissey were after: incident. Warhol occassionally hit the mark with this (especially in THE CHELSEA GIRLS and MY HUSTLER) while Morrissey (with more command of the form) perfected it with underground classics like FLESH, TRASH and HEAT using Joe Dallesandro's torso.
Even as a rough cut, WARWICK is an improvement over his earlier MAYSVILLE. The cinematography (credited to lead actor Burch) is much stronger with more intriguing compostions and better use of the locations. Reese also shows better direction of his "incident" here - this situation is more coherent and focused...more "in tune", so to speak. While MAYSVILLE took potentially tense situations and unintentionally drained the energy from them too often, WARWICK actually builds some tension from the ground up and when the two main characters finally meet face to face behind closed doors, the air becomes thick with it even if it is only for a short while.
Reese rests almost the entire film on cinematographer Burch as an actor but there isn't much for a viewer to latch onto. He's refreshingly uninhibited physically but just too remote emotionally. He does better in the scenes with Reese's Phoenix character where the chemistry is obvious. Reese himself continues to be interesting as an actor by playing a very different character here than the one in MAYSVILLE, showcasing a more masculine, sexually confident and unpredictable persona. It's interesting and it might even be enough on its own to get the movie into LGBT film festivals.
The film still drags its feet a bit too much cinematically and incident-wise for my taste but Douglas Reese nevertheless takes some promising steps forward with WARWICK.