Review: Fuzz Track City

August 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Released: June 4, 2012; Mystery; Written & Directed by: Steve Hicks; With: Todd Robert Anderson, Dee Wallace, Tarina Pouncey, Abby Miller, Dave Florek

Fuzz Track City, written and directed by Steve Hicks, begins, like any good noir, with a series of shots of our hero, private investigator Murphy Dunn (Todd Robert Anderson) experiencing some down-and-out.  Murphy drinks, he sits on the hood of his car at dawn overlooking Los Angeles, he dozes in cafes, he has rumpled hair, and most importantly, he attracts damsels in distress.  Enter Dawn Lockwood, Murphy’s high school guidance counselor and MILF extraordinaire (played by Dee Wallace, no less).  Dawn is Murphy’s latest client, and comes to him for help due to a decades-old affiliation with Murphy’s late-partner, Stan “Shakey” Black.

Dawn’s son Mike is missing and she’d like Murphy to find him.  Murphy does some research (i.e., searches Mike’s bedroom, chats with his buddy Ziggy) and determines a connection between Mike’s disappearance and up-and-coming rocker Zack Lee’s latest single.  Let the mystery-solving commence.

Along the way, Hicks introduces us to an eclectic and relatively developed group of characters: Al, Murphy’s ex-wife, played with spunk and circumstance by the lovely Tarina Pouncey, Jo (Abby Miller), Murphy’s waitress du jour, and Gregg Lynn (Dave Florek), the mouthwash-swilling pot of 70’s-era gold at the end of this mystery’s rainbow.

The thing about any good noir is that our protagonists are never quite as cool as they think they are.  That’s the point, right?  The voiceovers, the foggy nights, the femme fatales – they’re all technical elements layered over Sam Spade, our private investigating victim of circumstance whose life drama is a direct result of his PI status.  The real difference here is that Murphy Dunn, despite his dopey ginger garage-rock hair and propensity for quoting Piglet, is legitimately cool.  He’s a real person dealing with his own grief, his own broken marriage, and his own need to fix people, who just happens to be trying to solve a mystery at the same time.  He’s charmingly accessible.  Hicks and Anderson have created a very available hero here.

Technically, this movie is lovely.  It’s gritty in all the right places, Los Angeles laid out like a filtered wasteland…until it’s not.  Until it’s the city where a baby is born or a friend is saved or some hard-earned (and well-deserved) money is made.  This movie keeps a brisk pace and is peppered with witticisms (and several laughs), but the narrative is where it derails from time to time.  By the time it’s all said and done, there is a lot going on at the end of this film, which makes it both hilariously busy and potentially confusing.  Finally, FTC’s soundtrack is perfection and one wonders if Hicks wrote a movie about an elusive vinyl just so that he could publicly flex his music-pairing muscles.

This is an impressive first feature and is an extremely enjoyable film.  Frankly, it’s exactly the kind of picture that turns heads at festivals.  So, go see it and let it turn yours.

— Leah Gehlsen Morlan

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