There are shades of knock-off Tarantino to Jay Martin’s (storyboard artist by trade, but writer-director here) heist thriller, 7 Minutes.
The film crashes to life as three masked gunmen burst into a small town bank. However, we don’t get to spend all that long with the larcenists before we’re sent back in time to meet ex-high school quarterback and father-to-be Sam (played by Luke Mitchell, whom you may recognise from his starring role in the CW’s The Tomorrow People and a supporting role in season two of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The movie continues in this fashion. We learn about the men behind the masks and their ‘in and out in seven minutes’ plan, before being thrown back into the next thirty seconds of the robbery.
It’s a solid concept – opening with the crime and then using flashbacks to see how it came about – and there’s lots of room for character work in amongst the action. So, it’s a shame that none of these characters have the charm or style of Tarantino’s greatest ‘heroes’.
What we’re left with is an overly generic ‘good man forced into a life of crime’ narrative. But, at least Mitchell makes for a watchable lead. He’s the standout performer here and comes out mostly unscathed in his battle against the rather clunky dialogue.
It’s not that 7 Minutes is especially bad, it’s just that it’s pretty nondescript and overly reliant on crime movie clichés. The non-linearity is actually handled quite well, with Martin always ensuring that we remain on the pulse of the unfolding drama. The twists may not pack much of a punch due to our lack of engagement, but they’re intelligently planted and revealed.
It would be wrong, however, to brush over some underlying moral issues. Firstly, we have some mean-spirited violence from our leads, especially against the civilians caught up in the robbery. Secondly, and more specifically, there’s an uncomfortable misogynistic seam that lingers throughout the film. On the most basic level, there’s a severe lack of female characters, even in secondary roles. But, more troubling is the treatment of Sam’s girlfriend, Kate (Leven Rambin). She’s introduced as a kind, loving partner who’s left oblivious to Sam’s criminality, and then finds herself treated rather horribly (admittedly by some rather horrible people) in the build-up to the finale, leaving her objectified and used.
Add that to the flashy way in which the violence is shot (slow motion, extreme rack focus and low angles etc.) and the whole thing strays awfully close to glorification. Martin and his talented cinematographer, Noah Rosenthal, are far better off when they’re left to focus on the rich scenery, and the pair do craft an attractive frame and make good use of some neat camera tricks.
There’s talk of how the west was won and other aspirational American dream lines, but none of the grander themes really ring all that true. Likewise, any plays towards social realism, via talk of family life and other personal struggles, never offer any real insight.
The action finale punches above the film’s low budget and the props and extras are the real deal. But nothing in 7 Minutes feels especially distinctive, and the glorification of violence and the misogynistic tendencies are disappointing.
7 Minutes is out now on UK VOD services!
Screener and images provided by Alarm Pictures. Thank you!