Published on June 27th, 2008 | by Erich Becker0
Crime dramas are big today, so it’s no surprise that we see a lot of independents jump into the fray and produce gritty, seedy films with sex, drugs, guns and violence. The Yuzzi Brother’s attempt with Vegasland is valiant, but unfortunately needs a lot of work in the script and acting.
Vegasland follows bookie and gambler Eddie G., who gets roped into an underworld involving a cop hell bent on killing anything in site in order to get a tape of an underground fight that could spell trouble.
Whenever I review a low budget independent, I always take into account resources when evaluating the final product, to see how much was done with…well, how much. The problem here is that for a film like this that can’t afford a lot of effects, it needs a tight script and great acting talent, both of which are unfortunately weak here. The story itself is fine, but the scenes in the film feel more like a hodgepodge that don’t do anything to really build on the characters that are introduced. It seems almost as if the scenes are simply a means to and end.
Some of the scenes are notable though, including one where Eddie, seeing what amounts to his best chance to escape, trying to get a jammed gun to work. At first I thought he just didn’t know how to operate the gun, and so that humor lent itself to the frustration and sense of tension the scene had built.
The acting in the film lacked, and that is the one thing the movie could have had going for it if enough time was given to a casting search for the more crucial roles (yes even films on no budget can get people that have talent that work for peanuts, or less). Ernell Manabat does a passable job in the lead, having some great sparks of performance here and there, but it’s actually in some of the supporting cast members with almost no screen time that we see the best performances. Most notable are Rusty Meyers as Councilman Lance Eliason and Chuck Prater as Snakes who do outstanding jobs, and are quite believable in their roles.
Other notable plusses to the film are the quality of the cinematography and the sheer length of the film they were able to lay down on a shoe string budget. It’s not often you can find this kind of dedication to a project that transcends the almighty dollar, so it is really nice to see it all come together.
All in all I would say the film is a decent effort, and while it has some flaws that probably mean it won’t be winning any awards, it’s a fun change of pace to see a big budget movie style done independently.