review by Dan Lybarger, 20 October 2000

At first, One plays like a lot of other movies. Because it deals with the relationship between two working class men who have been on the wrong side of the law, memories of Mean Streets, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Federal Hill and others start to emerge. First time-director Tony Barbieri went to his roots for this one, and they appear pretty similar to those of the people who make the previous movies. Fortunately, Barbieri approaches the material with some fresh touches. His restraint in handling violence and sex may eventually set him apart from the field.

One begins with Charlie (Jason Cairns, who wrote the script with Barbieri) leaving prison. With no family of his own, he’s happy that his buddy Nick (Kane Picoy) has invited him to say at Nick’s parents’ house. Nick even helps Charlie find a job working in the sanitation department with him.

It’s not a fun existence. Nick and his father Ted (Paul Herman) argue constantly. Nick also derides Charlie’s desire to go to college and take a hand at teaching. Nick, resigned to being a garbage man, doesn’t hope to make it any further and hopes that Charlie will get a clue. Charlie’s rosy view of life may have even landed him in jail in the first place. He killed his grandfather because the man was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In truth, Nick is as unrealistic as his friend. A once promising baseball player, he got kicked out of minor league ball for punching a manager. When he gets the chance to return to the pros, Nick’s ego begins to swell. Charlie starts a relationship with his former boss Sara (Autumn Macintosh). Educated and professional, she arouses Nick’s mistrust and seems out of Charlie’s league.

Because neither of these fellows seems to have his act together, One develops into a much smarter movie as it progresses. One can admire these fellows’ ambitions, even if they are never likely to achieve them. Barbieri’s cast of relative unknowns show some real promise, and the director himself has a flair for making mundane scenes play in a fresh intriguing manner. For example, when Charlie and Sara have their first love scene, Barbieri shoots the entire sequence with a single long lens shot. Instead of focusing on the couple, an ashtray is clearly presented while Charlie and Sara are blurs. With only their voices and outlines to tell us the story, the director and the camera crew have actually put us closer to the emotions of the characters. We’re not distracted by their appearances or by the background. While we never see Charlie and Sara’s clothes fly off they way they would in a typical film of this genre, Barbieri uses our imagination to fill in the story. It’s a tool more filmmakers should use. One also features a refreshingly different type of score. Instead of a full orchestra or a collection of old or current popular favorites, composer Todd Boekelheide uses sparse instrumentation (including what sounds like hammer dulcimers) and gives the movie a ghostly mood.

There’s still a feeling of déjà vu when the ending comes, but Barbieri’s off-handed storytelling may serve him and his audience well in his subsequent films.

Written and
Directed by:

Jason J. Tomaric

Bill Caco
Jeff St. Clair
Valerie Renee Law
Gary Skiba
Nick Zelletz
Jen Sumerak
James Taddeo
Christine Lundblad
Sherrie McClain
Greg Mandryk



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