Back in 1998 Shem Bitterman had a play that made it onto an off-Broadway stage and was successful enough that he was able to raise a few nickels to turn it into a feature. The story involves a down on his luck twenty-something named Bubba (Patrick Flueger) who, at least according to multiple sources within the movie, is a “good man.” He may be but it’s hard to miss the thickly applied bad exposition. Bubba, hard up for cash, meets a drifter in a bar who, after they exchange favors, sets him up with a very lucrative, though very twisted, job offer. As you might expect, everything after that deal is a rather knotty moral dilemma wherein one man’s common decency runs up against his desire to be financially secure.

Following the drifter Jim’s advice Bubba attends a job interview with an iron fisted mob type named Perrimen (Joe Pantoliano) and is hired on the spot, it seems, exclusively for his vice like grip. When he shows up for his first day of work he is assigned the benign task of strangling a man to death for a cool $200,000 cash. Now your typical “good man” usually would turn this proposition down flat. But Bubba is flat broke, and the victim has agreed to the arrangement, and wouldn’t providing enough money for him and his sort of girlfriend to start a life together make him a “good man” in a different way? Well, as luck would have it, Jim (Ron Perlman) steps in with another proposition – for half of the money he’ll do all the heavy lifting. At this point any sentient viewer will notice that there is something a little off about the way Jim is so ready, willing, and able to off a guy. Bubba, though, has his eyes on the Benjamin’s and powers ahead incapable of seeing the forest for the trees.

Adding to the intrigue is the aforementioned would-be-girlfriend, Joy (Taryn Manning), a wannbe actress who clearly has her eyes set on a future with Bubba. He tries to sell her on the idea of using the blood money to start a life together but she tries to steer him away from thoughts like those. Manning, just one part of a rather impressive ensemble cast, gives an understated yet all together human performance. Pantoliano is also good, as always, though his physical appearance is startling and serves as a distraction; he certainly wasn’t this twittering old man when we last saw him on The Sopranos in 2004. Flueger isn’t able to hold up his end quite as well and his performance is flawed and at times ugly. Watch the scene early on in which he robotically remarks “This is like Candid Camera, right?” and then, in the most herky-jerky motion imaginable, glances around the room looking for that hidden camera.

When watching a movie adapted from a play it is always fun to spot the ways in which the theatre bleeds through the screen. The film is made up of primarily people talking while all of the important action takes place off screen. There are also instances of odd timing that probably felt less jarring in its original incarnation (one character exits a door and another knocks before the first character could have been half way down the hall). Also, when Bitterman tries to put on his director’s hat it starts to feel like a 101 class (rain used as a cleanser). But what it does well is what translates easily. The script has a firm grasp of human emotion and knows how to keep the pressure on the audience throughout. Near the end everything is crafted just right so that we and Bubba can begin to put the pieces together at the same time. The flaws here will be noticeable to most everybody, but as a slick meditation on what happens when people only look out for number one, it does what it intends to do.

DVD Special Features:

A featurette on the making of The Job, as well as an alternative ending to the movie.

Starring: Patrick Flueger, Ron Perlman, Taryn Manning, Joe Pantoliano
Director: Shem Bitterman
Runtime: 99 minutes
Rated: R

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