419. 2012. Directed by Ned Thorne.
Starring Mike Ivers, Scott Kerns, Ned Thorne, Ezra Mabengez, Cara Loften, and Emilea Wilson.
Unrated. 84 minutes.
★★★★I’m always on the lookout for new films to watch. As of now, I’ve seen a little over 4,100 movies – that’s including made for tv movies, short films, straight-to-video stuff, and of course all the regular feature films I’ve seen.
So I’m always trying to find new titles that I’ve not seen, that I’ve put off seeing. Recently I got more into iTunes and also Google Play. Tons of fun deals, good selection. On Google Play especially, I’ve found a bunch of stuff I have not been able to track down anywhere else – at least not for the prices they’re offering, anyways. The rentals are awesome.
When I came upon this one, 419, it looked pretty intriguing and possibly something fresh, exciting. So many found footage movies out there are really lame, however, 419 had some potential to me. I wasn’t disappointed. There are some fun things going on in this movie and it doesn’t go for all the same tropes, it doesn’t suffer from all the regular pitfalls that others do in this sub-genre.
Father Gore’s a big fan of found footage. Some horror fans act like horror movies that go found footage are all lame. 419 is not a full-on horror. It’s a pretty cracking little thriller that has elements of crime and horror. This is a smart use of found footage in a way that presents as organic— something other found footage films seem to be lacking, except the proper ones. The setup, the execution, and decent acting from the leads makes this a solid outing in the found footage sub-genre, and something that isn’t boringly typical.
Nigerian Penal Code – 419 is the code designated to acts of fraud.
We open to the story of Mike (Mike Ivers). He’s a struggling actor recently scammed via e-mail. Falling for one of the Nigerian scams, Mike’s lured in by a man who takes him for a ton of money. Friends Scott (Scott Kerns) and Ned (director Ned Thorne) decide to go with Mike to Cape Town, South Africa. Armed with little information, the trio head to meet with a local friend named Ezra (Ezra Mabengeza) who may be able to help..
Initially, things in Cape Town start out well. Ezra takes them to some places where Mike and his friends try extracting info from people around the neighbourhoods. Clearly, though, they’re out of their element amongst the poverty stricken locations Ezra brings them— a world they don’t fully understand. And unfortunately for the trio of best friends, there soon proves to be complications. Dark and dangerous complications.Overall 419 adheres to almost all of the unwritten found footage rules of the sub-genre. Not only that, the story works well. The characters interact and act individually as real people would in such a situation. At one point when Mike and his friends start to see how crazy things could get, they really start questioning things— particularly Ned and Scott. They realise things are intense and there’s potential for worse.
There are typical found footage moments of “Turn off the camera.” That being said, they’re not as typical as you’d see in other movies. For instance, the first time Mike asks for the camera to be turned off, there’s persistence not to but eventually it happens. There’s nothing prolonged on that part like in other scripts, where we’re treated to scene after scene of pure argument over whether or not the camera’s going to get turned off. So while you expect these moments, a film can either go too hard with them or use them, sparsely. 419 does so in a way that works with the plot while not becoming an overbearing nuisance that keeps happening, over and over.
The actin’g not great, though the movie’s not poorly acted. These guys seemed like three friends who were close and had history. They felt natural together. Not only that, they all acted natural in the situations in which they found themselves. The script, if there was one officially, worked well.
So many found footage efforts come out seeming illogical at times because much of the dialogue and so many of the characters come off as unreasonable people— doing and saying things in the moment that sound unnatural, irrational, or downright stupid. These characters were all appropriately leery about things after coming to their senses. Always at least one of them kept stating “we need to take a step back” and it made sense, it’s only normal someone would realise how wild their entire adventure into South Africa to try and find this online scam artist is getting.
One part that comes off so well, and natural, is after Mike has been doing cocaine in a bathroom at a club. His friends are pissed with his behaviour, and one wonders how the hell he even got any because they’d only been in Cape Town about 4 days. Such an honest, realistic moment.There’s no doubt that 419 is a slowburn thriller. Nothing quick about the plot of this film. For the longest time it plays out a lot like an actual documentary of their trip, there’s not too much going on in terms of convoluted action or dialogue. I like how organic things feel, but then the plot descends into its more sinister and dangerous thriller aspects.
BRIEF SPOILERS AHEAD! BE SPOILED LEST YE TURN BACK!
While I’d predicted that Ezra was less than honourable because of some of the things he did/said beforehand. Still, when things really hit the climax of the film I found myself surprised all the same. There was good tension and suspense leading up to those moments. The hostage stuff was god damn scary at times. So real and raw, truly freaky.
HERE ENDETH THE SPOILERS!
It’s great how part of this also played out after the fact, so we’ve got a real documentary-style feel to the found footage. We get people close to Mike and his friends, fathers, as well as a woman involved in the whole case concerning Mike and the people they all encounter in Cape Town, plus a few other talking heads. Gave this all a sense of realism that truly works. Effective way to go about things instead of dramatising all the events of the climax. Good way to push the story along near the end in the final 20-25 minutes. It went smooth and paid off on all the slowburn-like tension.
A really chilling moment that speaks to the universality of that gangster image in the Hollywood/other films we see glamorising illegal lifestyles: one of the South Africans, a young man involved in the darker things later in 419 walks around in a room by himself, on camera, imitating the musings of Tony Montana as played by the fabulously wild Al Pacino. Some think it’s funny. It’s actually disturbing and speaks volumes.One of the better found footage films I’ve seen from the past few years. Mainly because there’s an organic feel to so much of the dialogue, the relationships between the main characters feel incredibly real (the betrayal between them all comes off so much harder because of it), and the finale’s amazing. There’s one last twist Father Gore didn’t expect.
A truly well-done and intelligent bit of found footage that doesn’t go for straight up horror. We get a nice thrilling little crime drama that takes us into the peril of three friends who find terror in South Africa. Definitely not the typical found footage we always see, even if it has some of the watermarks in its DNA. Very refreshing to see a better take on the found footage sub-genre than so many cheap, independent efforts. Check this out on Google Play or anywhere else you can get your hands on a copy! Well worth the effort to track this down. Crackerjack ending— loved it a good deal.