Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 15, 2013
Directed by: Leone Marucci
Stars: 3 out of 5
Suppose “Pulp Fiction” was rewritten by a huge fan of “24,” given a dose of “Inglorious Basterds” and sent to film school with “The DaVinci Code.” Set the whole thing in the city where they shot “Interview With the Vampire,” and behold “The Power of Few.” As an added treat for the audience, it stars one of the guys from “Raging Bull,” a rap star, and a nice young man from “Heathers.”
Police officers, international secret agents, and mysterious clergymen cross paths with suspiciously heavily armed kids during an intense twenty-minute encounter in New Orleans. The events of “The Power of Few” will unfold for the audience via the productive device of following five separate characters who have been unwittingly caught up in a smuggling operation. Elaborate religious conspiracies wend through urban organized crime, and none of our characters will ever be the same.
It’s obvious that Quentin Tarantino is still relevant to the culture of independent film. His ghost haunts “The Power of Few” from its opening scenes to the score that plays until its ending credits. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is worth noting that “The Power of Few” could not possibly have been written before “Reservoir Dogs” was released and that the atmosphere of the ’90s indie films is present with every breath of this movie.
Of course, there are worse influences out there. The cultural heritage of “The Power of Few” is rich, and the genre of disjointed, non-traditional narrative that spawned it is legitimately worthy of respect and emulation. The 1990s was a good decade for movies, and the well of that particular creative efflorescence clearly hasn’t run dry yet.
Some of the casting of “The Power of Few” might have been intended as homage to that same indie culture. Christopher Walken is here somewhere, reminding everybody where he had to keep Butch’s dad’s watch in that POW camp. If the filmmakers’ intent was simply to drop a nod to the peculiar casting choices of the pioneers in their genre, the attempt failed by way of success. The actors in “The Power of Few” deliver performances that are so earnest that they escape the artificial irony that may have driven the casting in the first place.
Christian Slater has had his ups and downs as an actor, and it’s easy to forget the kind of relaxed brutality of his archetypal characters that made his first few roles so memorable. That air of casual cruelty is back in “The Power of Few,” and Slater really seems to be enjoying himself. Juvenile makes a serious effort in his role in the film. Normally, this sort of crossover performance-with a singer shifting gears into acting, or vice versa-can be a fraught affair. Most skills of one field really aren’t a preparation for the other, and the results can be disastrous; witness “Hammertime.” At other times, the big switch can be invigorating. Ice Cube made the switch, as did Ice T. Juvenile is still in the early stages of his diversification, but his role as Shamu is certainly a good start. Christopher Walken is all class, all the time.
Leone Marucci wrote the script and directed “The Power of Few,” so the themes and general tone of the movie are largely his responsibility. The same is true for any accolades the film earns. Marucci lives and breathes movies and is involved in a number of creative projects on the side, which is aimed at adding to and further refining the art of independent film. This attitude is apparent in the direction of “The Power of Few.” It would be very easy to let a movie like this fall into the trap of simple repetition of the genre’s various clichés, but between an original script and a tight directing style, Marucci manages to bring the project home with a measure of believability that’s frankly surprising, given how totally over the top its plot elements are.
The lighting and set designs of “The Power of Few” are clearly aimed at creating an intense, driven visual effect. New Orleans is a difficult city to make boring, and like a pro, the city delivered one exciting backdrop after another throughout the film.
As a cultural phenomenon, “The Power of Few” can absolutely be put in a pigeonhole. It shares space with some of the most groundbreaking movies of the last twenty years and can fairly be said to have earned its place next to them.