Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 8.31.30 AM.png

Philadelphia's independent voice
for film criticism.

ECCO outpaces its ambition and style

ECCO outpaces its ambition and style

 ECCO is an ambitious, stylish, and cryptic B-movie. Fascinating and frustrating in equal measure, the film features striking images as it toggles back and forth in time. But the editing is so convoluted that viewer must puzzle out if scenes are memories or perhaps dreams. It almost doesn’t matter given writer/director Ben Medina vague sci-fi plotting and talk of “ghosts.” 

Michael (Lathrop Walker) is an assassin who executes some executives in mid-flight to Dubai. It’s a familiar sequence reminiscent of so many spy thrillers—but it works. What follows is more confusing. Michael is first playing poker on a boat, and then he is suited on the subway as a blonde female photographer (Helena Grace Donald) takes his picture. Next he is in a swanky bar meeting a blonde woman (Tabitha Bastien) who is his pregnant wife. Michael is enigmatic in each exchange; who he is and what is going on remains unclear. And the sex scenes that follow may be flashbacks. It is hard to tell. Such hazy storytelling may be deliberate, but it is not particularly satisfying. 

The story does pick up some steam (and coherence) when Michael gets a call that suggests his “last job” as an assassin was not, in fact, his last job. Sucked back into his covert operations, his wife is dismayed when she discovers her husband’s double secret life—most notably when she witnesses him dispatching a half dozen men in front of her. (The film’s violence is largely bloodless, and mostly off-screen, belying the film’s low budget).

Michael is eventually captured by a nefarious guy and waterboarded. He is told, “It seems like the only person who doesn’t know you…is you” in one of the film’s existential howlers. Well, the audience won’t know either. Lathrop Walker’s performance consists largely of impassive blank stares contrasted with some yelling. He has the right look, but he registers too cold. It is hard to care about his character as his journey slowly unfolds. 

ECCO lumbers along and loses its thread around the mid-point when an old man talks about “pretending to be God,” and the narrative starts to fold in on itself. 

To the film’s credit, the cinematography is quite sleek, and there are some impressive images. But strong visuals can’t disguise the fact that Medina’s film is flabby. The editing juxtaposes extended scenes of Michael driving with intense close-ups of his wife. Such sequences bloat the film to a two-hour plus running time. There is not enough dramatic tension to sustain the slack and shifting plot—especially when the story heads into its last act and some father/son drama. Despite a nifty reveal, ECCO generates too little payoff for all its effort. 

ECCO opens at the Ritz at the Bourse today.

 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has too much story, not enough scary

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has too much story, not enough scary

Piranhas offers an exciting entry in the teen crime genre

Piranhas offers an exciting entry in the teen crime genre