Reviews Short Narrative

Loose Ends (2023) – 3.5 stars

Director: Lenny Cossey

Writer: Lenny Cossey & Alexander Los

Cast: Alexander Los, Max Semmel & Maud Ladoucette

Running time: 7mins

While I don’t necessarily agree with the idiom ‘If you can do comedy, you can do anything’, I do think the assertion it is the hardest genre to pull off has a lot of validity. An almost impossible balancing act at the best of times, just one wrong move – a failure to read the room, a botched delivery – can see a punchline fall flat, and the whole film tumble off the high-wire it was shuffling across moments before.

To some extent, that may explain why we get so few comedies at Indy Film Library – and why, when we do, they’re almost incognito on arrival. The submission for Loose Ends was simply tagged ‘student’, so I was not primed to laugh – intentionally, anyway – but it is an absurdist situation comedy, about three incompetent assassins. Despite this demure arrival, for the most part, I have to admit that Loose Ends does hold up as a comedy.

Loose Ends is unashamedly silly. That is initially jarring in what first sounds like a Tarantino-esque scenario, but tellingly over its short seven-minute run-time, it managed to win even this stony-faced grump over. I laughed at some of it – which is arguably the most important hurdle a comedy needs to clear. But it probably took a little longer to get to that stage than it should have – and in a film of such a length, that’s a problem – because of one big problem that becomes apparent from the very first line of dialogue.

Shubagabateezer, does it?”

I don’t know, does it?

Co-writer Alexander Los has been cast as Luka – a ‘dyslexic hitman’ whose problems reading have apparently led to our characters murdering the wrong person – but we will never really know how brilliant the first line he crafted with director Lenny Cossey was, because of a needlessly garbled delivery. As time goes by, he seems to grow into the role a bit more, but never drops below speaking at a rate of knots – meaning many of the quips or gags he is involved in do not hit like they should, as by the time we have figured out what he said, the conversation has moved on.

Cossey might have done more to help with this – encouraging him to take a deep breath and try to take the next take a little slower and more naturally, as if he isn’t conscious of having to deliver punchy dialogue for a film of under 10 minutes. At the same time, it is hard to judge exactly which pieces of audio are understandable, if you know whatever it says in the script. If so, it might be advisable for Cossey, or any other director filming fast-flowing, snarky conversations like this to seek an independent ear to listen to the dailies – and help identify what needs reshooting for the sake of the audience.

At the same time, there are opportunities for humour which go relatively unexplored, and which could have helped paper over some of the other cracks in the production. A film made by young artists, for a budget of £200, is excusably going to find believable casting of mafia grunts difficult. As a result, Los and his co-stars Max Semmel and Maud Ladoucette (who are both excellent) strike an unusually diverse group of mobsters. That’s the famously patriarchal, racist, Italian mob at that. This baggage – which connoisseurs of other mafia-related content, from Goodfellas, to Casino, to The Sopranos will be aware of – becomes more conspicuous for having not been picked up on. Has this particular syndicate had staffing issues, which like many real businesses in the 21st century has finally forced them to diversify?

At the same time, the added context of two young women – one of whom says she is Jewish – having finally won enough trust in the mob to undertake an assassination has room for an added layer of humour. These would be characters well aware of the precarity of their situation at the best of times – and now they may well end up carrying the can for the idiocy of their white, male counterpart.

One final note is that the script might do more to deliver a final punchline. In the story, things are chaotic and perilous until everything neatly resolves itself. A comedy which really wants to live long in the memory might do well to interrupt its harmless (if admittedly amusing) photomontage-outro with some more bad news that places our characters back in a bad situation – and leaving us wanting to see how they get out of the next scrape.

With all that being said, however, Loose Ends is a fast-paced, enjoyably absurd romp, which will put a smile on your face. For an early foray into the genre by a team of students, that speaks to a very promising future indeed.

Over the years, we’ve seen some truly woeful comedy with IFL, of all shapes and sizes. The one thing that each of those disparate experiences taught me was that – unlike other genres, where there is potential for so-bad-it’s-good watching – failed comedy is miserable. Loose Ends is not miserable, not for one second. In fact, I look forward to seeing future comedic contributions from Cossey and company – and I do not say that about films in this genre often.

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