With the general pessimism that exists surrounding our political leaders, I’m not sure who you’d choose to negotiate with powerful aliens over the fate of the human race, but I feel safe in asserting that your choice would not be Henry. Dressed in a cheap suit, and possibly an alcoholic, Henry does not cut a very imposing figure. As for his skills as a lawyer? Well, he claims that his best strategy for winning in the courtroom is to have the other guy not show up.
Yet, here we are. Henry is representing humanity from an aggressive resource grab from an alien race. The fate of billions of lives rest on Henry’s acumen—and Henry is hungover.
That’s the setup for Final Offer, the latest film from Canada’s lo-fi sci-fi auteur, Mark Slutsky. Featured previously on the site for Never Happened, a lot of that review can be cut and pasted into this one, as Slutsky’s new film continues his emphasis on intelligent, economical writing, as opposed to spectacle, a welcome distinction in the current shorts landscape, and an attitude which has previously earned our esteem.
Indeed the film is constructed almost as an indie film test—a classic two-hander, the plot moves entirely through dialogue, and employs a single location, a 3-wall set erected in the middle of a Toronto warehouse. Slutsky welcomed the challenge of these limitations, and it stretches his writing skills in fun ways. While influenced by the influential legal drama The Verdict where Paul Newman plays a similarly down-and-out attorney, Slutsky uses the absurdity of the premise to diverge from this influence, and the influence of his previous work, by making room for genuine humor. While largely played straight, the ridiculous gravity of the situation is not lost on Slutsky or the characters, played with aplomb by Aaron Abrams and Anna Hopkins (Shadowhunters, The Expanse). The levity combines nicely with the legal drama elements, and culminates in some endearing human (err alien?) moments when the two sides find commonality.
Slutsky has become the go-to director for the burgeoning media brand DUST. A division of Gunpowder & Sky, DUST is a portal for sci-fi shorts distributed across several channels. Slutsky’s The Decelerators was the debut film on the service, and Never Happened its first premiere. Final Offer is a first as well, representing a move from DUST into commissioning original work. Congrats to DUST, we hope to see more fun originals from them, and for Slutsky as well, who is currently hard at work adapting his short The Decelerators into a feature.