when making an ultra-low bud-get movie you need an inexpensive idea, something that won't cost very much to shoot but will still keep audiences interested. How about sticking a guy up a tree for 24 hours while a gang waits down below for him to come down so they can beat the crap out of him? All you need is a small cast that doesn't leave a free-of-charge, outdoor set.
Writer/director William Phillips came up with the premise for his debut film, Treed Murray, and while it's an intriguing idea, the film doesn't come together the way it should.
David Hewlett (TV's Traders) portrays Murray, an advertising executive who takes a shortcut through a park on his way to work and gets lost. He's accosted by a gang, led by the charismatic Shark (Clé Bennett), and to get away from them he climbs up a tree. Shark and his crew lay siege down below while Murray uses his intelligence to try to figure out how to undermine Shark's authority over his charges -- the younger Carter (Kevin Duhaney), the hot-headed KC (Carter Hayden), the tough Dwayne (Aaron Ashmore) and Kelly (Jessica Greco), the only female member of the gang.
I was hooked through the first 30 minutes of Treed Murray, appreciating the original idea and Hewlett's fear-filled yet arrogant performance.
The movie starts to flag with Phillips' compartmentalized writing -- he gives us short, sewn-up summaries of each of the gang members' personalities and problems, which leaves us nothing to do but nod our heads in agreement.
You wish Phillips would have taken a few more risks and toughened up the characters. But he should be lauded for keeping us interested in Murray, a character who emits a large personality while confined to a small physical space. Ultimately, Murray overshadows a less convincing cast of younger performers, who work hard but just don't have the skills to rise above an obvious script.
Treed Murray written and directed by William Phillips, produced by Helen du Toit, with David Hewlett, Clé Bennett, Kevin Duhaney and Jessica Greco. 89 minutes. A Treed Murray Production. An Odeon Films release. Opens Friday (December 7). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 95. Rating: NN