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Track 16   D

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 Jeremiah Kipp

Opening with an infomercial history of multi-track recording, followed by the split-screen breakdown of each individual track being taped for a new song in a band's basement studio (singer, bass, back-up vocals, drums, etc.), Track 16 at first appears to be an informative no-budget foray into the work that goes into putting together a record. The musicians all have the hangdog, tired look of being in the studio all day, making dumb jokes, drinking a lot of beer. It's forgiven that the image quality, shot on digital video, looks dirt-cheap. There's a passion for their musical craft that makes up for its home movie shoddiness.

Unfortunately, Mick McCleery's Track 16 doesn't follow through on its initial premise, quickly lapsing into conventional film noir twists cribbed from De Palma and Hitchcock, with the requisite double-crosses and twists familiar from The Usual Suspects -- the movie most responsible for the insufferable thriller knock-offs that clutter the independent film circuit. Lead singer Paul Matthews (Billy Franks) stays late in the studio to re-record his vocal track. Upon playback, Paul hears a barely audible scream, and moments later he discovers a brutally murdered young girl in the hallway. When the police investigate, he becomes the prime suspect -- a real drag, considering he's got a gig the following night that he can't afford to miss.

Cutting back and forth between a drawn out interrogation with Paul at Police HQ (someone's apartment?) with his fellow band members drinking and telling long-winded anecdotes at the local watering hole (led by burly writer-director McCleery, who co-stars as brooding bass player Mason), Track 16 is as aimless and long-winded as its characters. With no cinematic style other than what's to be expected from recreational wedding photography, Track 16 lacks any sense of direction. The inappropriate camera zooms feel more cheap than explorative, and the frequent use of split-screens feels more like the editor was having fun on his new Final Cut Pro editing system. Likewise the performances, with the exception of affable Brit Billy Franks, feel unstudied and amateurish.

The old mantra, "Write what you know," should have deferred McCleery from tackling a perfunctory, unenthusiastic crime thriller complete with double-crosses, a "surprise" revelation of the killer during the somnambulant fight-and-flight chase finale, and a sex scene without the temerity to show a little skin (if you're gonna have Grade-Z production values, why not toss in playful Grade-Z exploitation a la Samuel Fuller/Roger Corman? McCleery should have learned something from his occasional collaborator, indie schlock horror guru Kevin J. Lindenmuth of Brimstone Media). The most interesting aspect of Track 16 is the band, and while I wasn't overly impressed by Billy Franks' whitewashed garage pop, at least those scenes suggested the lives of struggling musicians -- a life McCleery and Franks are no doubt more familiar with than undercover cops, tough-talking detectives, or workaday serial murderers. It's no surprise that the character of Paul Matthews is unfazed by the murder and just wants to get back to rockin', a code of conduct I wish McCleery himself had subscribed to.

Review published 04.05.2002.

For another opinion, read Eric Beltmann's review.

For another opinion, read Michael Scrutchin's review.

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