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Track 16   B

One by One Film & Video

Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Mick McCleery
Writer: Mick McCleery
Cast: Billy Franks, Bobbi Ashton, C Fox C, Alan Pratt, Abby Lazur, Mike McLaughlin, Larry Schneider Jr., Renee Nocito, Mick McCleery.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Track 16, a micro-budget murder mystery set against the East Coast music scene, takes place among the smoke-filled bars and practice studios with Budweiser cases piled up in the corner that most musicians are familiar with. While the film trips up in the last act, it's a highly enjoyable, intriguing thriller filled with good music. Besides, it's near impossible to dislike a film where a song called "Sex With Someone You Love" plays during the requisite sex scene.

Paul Matthews (Billy Franks), vocalist for a small-time rock band, is up at the studio one night recording the vocal track for a song. As he plays the song back afterwards, he hears the barely audible sounds of a woman screaming on the recording. Grabbing a mic stand, Paul ventures outside to find a woman lying in a pool of her own blood. Dead.

This is going to cause problems. Paul will have to deal with two detectives (C Fox C and Alan Pratt) who want answers he can't give them and the victim's best friend (Bobbi Ashton) tailing him like a lost puppy wanting answers of her own. The killer will also be on his tail once he (or she) discovers that Paul knows more than he should. And to top it all off, Paul has a club gig with his band the following night. But a murder can't get in the way of a gig. That just wouldn't be cool.

Track 16 is written and directed by Mick McCleery, who made The Killing of Bobby Greene, a movie that I liked despite its shortcomings. Well, it seems that McCleery has matured as a filmmaker, eschewing the Kevin Smith-esque point and shoot banality that plagued his earlier effort and opting for a more relaxed and fluid shooting style. There's even some clever use of split-screen here, reminiscent of vintage Brian De Palma like Sisters (although the plot has obvious similarities to Blow Out). Through it all, Track 16 has a light sense of humor, helped in part by the presence of Billy Franks in the leading role.

Billy Franks has an affable charm that few actors are blessed with. He has a natural grace that's perfectly suited to darkly comedic thrillers like this. Luckily, Franks has ample chemistry with the wonderful Bobbi Ashton, who plays the murder victim's best friend who's also a cop doing her own undercover investigation. The film works best when Franks and Ashton are on-screen together. They're great here. (And just to let you know, Billy Franks also did the soundtrack, which is filled with good music if you dig old-fashioned bluesy pop rock type stuff.)

Track 16 does so much right that it hurts when it takes a wrong step. There are some clunky scene transitions involving the slow motion strumming of a guitar and some confusing flashbacks, but they didn't bother me much. What hurts most is that the film takes a nosedive in the last third after the killer's identity is revealed (which isn't much of a surprise). While the tension should have tightened as the movie built to its climax, it seemed to lose its grip. Sure, there are a couple of thrilling scenes near the end, but they don't go anywhere. And when the final climax does arrive, it seems a lot less potent than it should be.

Don't get me wrong: I really like the movie. It's an exciting thriller that's a pleasure to watch thanks to a solid and likable cast, a nice soundtrack, and good writing and direction. The DVD from One by One Film & Video even includes a one-hour video in which Billy Franks tells the stories behind 14 of his songs and plays them for an audience. There's also a nice collection of deleted scenes and outtakes with the director's comments. Yes, Track 16 is a lot of fun. In fact, I'd be happy to watch it again in a second. And that's not light praise at all.

Review published 05.20.2001.

For another opinion, read Jeremiah Kipp's review.

For another opinion, read Eric Beltmann's review.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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