MOVIE REVIEW: ’24 Exposures’

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Film: 24 Exposures
Starring: Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett
Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Having released eighteen features since 2005, Joe Swanberg has made himself as prolific as any indie filmmaker could hope to be. He’s released dramatic tales of heartache, witty tales of romance, and in his latest feature he’s even managed to create a half-cocked erotic thriller whose conceit never lives up to its full potential.

Swanberg has often cast people he’s close to in real life for the roles of characters in his films, even if said performers are not necessarily the best choice for the feature. 24 Exposures is the latest film in his career to suffer from this unintentional stunting, with filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett filling the lead roles. Wingard plays Billy, a fetish photographer specializing in a mixture of death and female nudity who becomes involved in a murder investigation after one of his models winds up dead. He has a live-in girl, with whom he shares many of the models he casts for shoots, but try as he might he cannot help feeling at least somewhat attached to every pretty face he meets.

Barrett is the detective assigned to the case — but truth be told — he’s often too distracted with his own problems to focus on the task at hand. His marriage has fallen apart, he’s suicidal, and as if that were not bad enough he’s also struggling with intense intimacy issues that leave him desperate for affection, but too paralyzed by the possibility of rejection to act. When he discovers Billy’s profession he cannot help becoming fascinated by a world that seems so different than his own, and in turn Billy — a lover of all things macabre — cannot help being interested in his new friend’s career in major crimes.

24 Exposures could be a fantastic web of lies and suspicion, but Swanberg and company seem far too preoccupied with capturing the curves of every woman who graces the screen from as many angles as possible to concern themselves much with plot development. Aside from the above descriptions, the film makes little effort to setup motivation, reasoning, or even interest in the crime that propelled the main characters together. Instead; we’re given lengthy scenes that either the toe the line with softcore porn or drone on with mundane conversation unrelated to the plot. It’s as if mumblecore became influenced by cinemax after dark, only with the addition of a creepy synth driven soundtrack that feels stolen from bad ’80s cop movies.

There is a meta element to the proceedings that, given on your adoration for the filmmakers, could sway you to find 24 Exposures far more entertaining. Swanberg and company have come under attack numerous times for inserting unnecessary sex scenes and nudity into films, which is very much what happens to Billy throughout the majority of the film. Every time he meets someone unfamiliar with his work he’s eventually asked something about his inspiration or motivation for his craft and every time Billy offers essentially no reasoning for his actions. He does it because it’s what he does, more or less, and as the film plays on you get the idea that is how every actor approached their role. There may be no other film released this year that is played completely seriously while featuring a cast that looks like they’d rather be doing anything else than performing in the latest Joe Swanberg misfire.

The biggest compliment anyone can give 24 Exposures is that it keeps the spirit of skinemax features alive in an age where late night cable porn has gone the way of pogs and the Taco Bell Chihuahua. Those looking for a handful of well endowed topless women reenacting graphic scenes of violence while a mustachio’d Wingard looks with a sly grin and a tiny, sometimes pink, camera will walk away from this movie with a smile on their face. The rest of us, unfortunately, will be left with a reminder of why we cancelled our premium cable subscription and embraced the world of Netflix.

Score: C-

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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