Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




Scalene (Zack Parker, 2011)


In Scalene, director Zack Parker tells what is a relatively simple story with flourishes of Hitchcockian style and an achronological, three-part story structure. Like Rashomon, a traumatic rape lies at the center of Scalene’s narrative, and like Kurosawa’s classic, the more we learn through observing each character’s biased perspective, the less we know. Each new angle that Parker provides here adds theories but subtracts certainty. A small scale mystery, but no poorer for it, this is an excellent example of independent filmmaking that might owe as much to Soderbergh’s Bubble as its more obvious influences.


Starting with its shocking opening sequence, in which a woman arrives at another’s house with a gun in hand, Scalene works to keep the viewer unmoored. Whenever it seems to establish itself as one thing, it promptly shifts directions. These shifts become literal in the case of the film’s chronology, which slides back and forth in time, in pursuit of answers that might not ever come. When one finishes watching Scalene, one isn’t left confused, exactly, but every scene end inspires true uncertainty about what will come next.


Another thing that Scalene provides is a too-rare chance for Margo Martindale to display the range of her talents. A recognizable and prolific character actress, she always seems to shine when given a juicy role (Alexander Payne’s Paris je t’aime segment and the TV series Justified come to mind). Here Martindale plays a mother saddled with the care of her invalid son. Her characterization initially begs for sympathy, but as the film develops, our impressions of the woman shift. By the story’s end, the true complexity of her performance has been made clear. Her commitment to this character is admirable, and she uses both her physical bulk and her trembling eyes to equal effect over the course of the film. Hanna Hall, who plays Martindale’s well-intentioned foil, is nearly as impressive, if not quite as ostentatious in her acting. Adam Scarimbolo, as the third “narrator”, manages to do a lot with a role that gives him no dialogue.


Martindale’s strong performance may be the best reason to watch Scalene, but it is hardly the only reason. Parker’s work here is provocative, ambitious and sure-handed. A skillful manipulator, he shifts our sympathies throughout the film with aplomb. As Scalene’s title implies, any triangular relationship is likely to be beset by inequalities. This methodical thriller becomes doubly troubling by ensuring that all of its pieces, in the final appraisal, don’t fit together.



Jeremy Heilman