Ray Shoesmith (writer/director Scott Ryan) murders people for a living. His gratingly naïve mate Max (Massimiliano Andrighetto) has, for some reason, decided to follow him to work with a DV cam for a bit. As plots go, it’s pretty threadbare – a ghoulish mockumentary that plays out like a doomed-to-cable episode of Louis Theroux Goes Rather Too Far.
“I’m interested in real life, rather than creating some fantasy world where magical fucking things happen,” drawls Ryan in a gratifyingly hands-on Making Of. “And I’m not really interested in story.” The gruff Aussie’s not kidding: Jackanory this most certainly isn’t. “People get hung up on story – ‘Oh, it’s gotta have this and that, and story story story...’” You really wouldn’t want to be the pulp airport thriller in this guy’s suitcase, that’s for sure.
On-screen, Ryan makes for a pretty convincing bad boy, totally nailing the detached placidity of the career hardman. The real devil is in the detail. Max’s lens is at its most revealing when capturing those wry, utterly inappropriate asides; most notably a giggled debate about the going rate for eating a bowl of shit, while the pair wait for a marked man to finish his call with nature. Ray’s faux-earnest banter with his victims is immaculately observed, too. If you’ve ever been asked the time by someone you know damn well is about to assume ownership of your mobile, you’ll recognise that chilly familiarity at once.
The only regret is that, in Ryan’s insistence on brutal focus, potentially fascinating ideas are frequently abandoned. The oh-so-faint whiffs of bizarre sexual tension between Ray and Max quickly disperse, while brief mentions of estranged offspring and acrimonious military discharge remain defiantly unexplored (if somewhat cliché-littered) avenues.
Completing a decent treatment, a brief visual effects featurette might seem slightly self-indulgent given that TheMagician never really expands beyond The Blair Witch Project in a car. This is a minor niggle, however, as for an exercise in no-frills, no-story storytelling, the revealing extra works just as well as the main feature. Turns out there’s actually precious little magic here – and that’s a very good thing indeed.