Directed by Dom Portalla and co-written with Ken Flott (who wrote the story that was adapted into screenplay form and also takes on the lead role), Nicky is a very interesting and thought-provoking short film. If you remember an excellent film from a few years back called The Pledge then you’ll have an idea of the territory explored in this.
The central character (Flott) isn’t named but that’s fine. In fact, it’s more than fine, it’s exactly as it should be. Nicky is a character study but it’s a character study of someone who has nothing defining him apart from a tragic loss. His world has grown smaller and smaller ever since that fateful day, years ago, when his little brother (Nicky, played by Charles Everett Tacker) was abducted. Pain seems to be his only constant companion although there are fleeting moments of happiness when he feels that Nicky has somehow popped back to visit him. There might be an easing of the pain if all works out as planned and he gets to exact his revenge.
There are many parts of Nicky that are very good, ranging from the script to the acting, and show how Portalla has learned and moved on from his previous film, the enjoyable feature The Darkness Within. The scene in which the central character turns up, unexpectedly, at the home of an ex (Marianne Bayard) and eventually relates a dream/fantasy scenario that he concocted to explain why his brother never came home is almost brilliant. I don’t know why it stops just short, perhaps the writing needed a bit more to it or maybe there should have been more of an emotional punch, but it’s something that I’d like to see revisited at some point in the future if Nicky was ever expanded into a full feature. Seriously Dom and Ken, imagine expanding that into an absolutely beautiful and cinematic “scene of the year” a la The 25th Hour.
Flott being so good in the main role is a huge plus, but there’s also just a slightly better look and feel to the thing that helps to get everything needed onscreen without reminding viewers of how tough actually getting the film made must have been (I don’t know the details of the production but getting to a finished product of this quality can never be an easy ride for an independent film-maker). It also helps that there are no weak links among the supporting players (Tacker, Bayard, Maria Natapov, Sean Pierce, Joe Spallone, etc) and that the screenplay gives every one of the main characters just enough time and space to be more than just an indistinguishable stranger.
There are weak links, however. For example, the moments in which Flott has a conversation in his head with the cigarette that he’s smoking. To be fair, though it starts off seeming ridiculous and out of place compared to the subject matter and tone of the film, it actually works out quite well, punctuating what could have been an unrelentingly bleak piece of work. Whether others will agree with me or not is a different matter entirely. Strangely enough, the biggest mis-step seems to be in the third act when things move into potential horror movie territory. Depending on how you view it, the third act is either unnecessarily violent or not outrageously violent enough and that, sadly, undermines a lot of the great work that was put in during the first 2/3 of the film.
Nicky is doing the festival rounds in 2012-2013 so if it’s showing with other selected works at a cinema near you then I suggest you check it out because it’s worth your time.
DIRECTOR: DOM PORTALLA
WRITER: KEN FLOTT, DOM PORTALLA
STARS: KEN FLOTT, CHARLES EVERETT TACKER, MARIANNE BAYARD, MARIA NATAPOV, SEAN PIERCE, JOE SPALLONE
RUNTIME: 32 MINS APPROX