Few Options
Try This One

You know the drill.  Frank Connor has just been released from prison, and has nowhere to go.  In the absence of other ideas, he drifts back into the neighborhood and friendships that landed him in jail in the first place.  Before long, he’s being pressured into doing “one last job” to clear the “debt” he owes to the goon he “let down” by getting caught.  What’s Frank gonna do?

The theme of the movie is right there in the title.  From the general plight of ex-cons to the specifics of Frank’s dilemma, we are immersed in a world where there are only bad choices to be made—and worse ones.

George Pappy, director of Few OptionsFirst-time writer/director George Pappy—who financed the film with the proceeds of his pre-bubble-burst home sale—writes a fine story that illustrates the first part of this dilemma. 

Frank would like to get a legit job, for instance—but because his mother’s files were mostly destroyed when she was institutionalized, he no longer has a Social Security card.  The SSA won’t issue a new one without a photo ID… but the California DOL won’t issue a photo ID without a Social Security card.  Catch-22.  And when the prison can only send a signed discharge with photo in red-tape standard 10 business days… well, two weeks is a long time for someone in Frank’s situation.  The only place he has to stay is the garage at his brother’s house, and his sister-in-law guarantees that’s a very short-term proposition.  Enter the financial “favors” that his former “professional” associates are willing to dole out… under the table, and with hefty strings attached.

Pappy’s script doesn’t do so well, from that point, with the particulars of Frank’s personal dilemma.  There are so few options, in fact, that only one is really plausible… and we can see the train wreck coming some sixty or seventy minutes away.

Still, Pappy executes the story with style and grace.  While the inevitable payoff doesn’t carry the weight of other indie-film neo-noir debuts like Carl Franklin’s One False Move or John Dahl’s Kill Me Again, Kenny Johnson is so appealing as Frank that we don’t mind terribly.  You probably won’t get emotionally involved in Frank’s tale, but you probably will enjoy the slow-burn ride.

In part, the failure of Pappy’s film to grab you is due to something that both undermines the tension yet makes the film both unique and commendable.  In films like this, the seedy underworld is typically exploited with gratuitous nudity and violence that nonetheless seems “natural” given the context.  And, over the years, we have learned the “grammar” of noir exploitation so well that when a film doesn’t speak the “proper” language, we don’t respond to it in the way we expect—and we blame the filmmaker rather than our own trashy conditioning.  But I’ve got to hand it to Pappy.  I really appreciated that his camera chose not to walk through certain doors.  As he explained in an interview with Valley Film Fest,

You never see the inside of the club—the hero’s not allowed inside.  And he hates the idea of even being there.  He takes a moral stance against what’s going on inside (and how it’s making the SOB who’s threatening to kill him rich).  I’d throw out a lot of the film’s thematic credibility if I put nude stripper shots in just to increase the marketability.

If it seems like your movie-watching options are pretty slim some night soon, consider supporting a principled and talented filmmaker and give Few Options a chance.

Few Options is unrated.  There’s a wee bit of violence and a good bit of salty language, so call it PG-13.  But really—this is very mild for the genre.

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional copy of Few Options.