By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
“Exeter at Midnight” (2020), a twelve-minute and thirty-one second short film from director Christopher Di Nunzio and screenwriter Kris Salvi, is a superb dialogue and character-driven gangster tale. It is also a fantastic performance piece for its two leads, David Graziano (as Anthony Fechetti) and Salvi (as the “Recently Made” Vincent). Much of the sheer effective force of the undertaking lies in the banter and highly credible turns of Graziano and Salvi. On this front, the pair certainly deliver.
The project concerns Anthony being approached by Vincent in his home. Vincent offers Anthony a chance to come out retirement for one more job as a hitman. Regardless, Anthony is haunted by the violence he has seen. This element is derived particularly from one masterfully done sequence. It launches the exercise with high-intrigue and emotional intensity. The act of brutality in question occurred in Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1978. This segment provides an engaging commencement to Anthony’s uncertainty towards the proposal from Vincent. The bulk of the plot and the way audiences get to know Anthony revolves around this internal struggle.
From this angle, the chronicle is consistently meditative. It readily allows viewers to slip into the ever-deteriorating mind-state of Graziano’s character. This also adds to the intimacy of all that transpires on-screen. Such an aspect is especially noticeable in the commencing moments of the endeavor. This is where Graziano seems to be talking to himself as well as the viewers. Such is a wonderful and wise touch. It is one that makes the attempt evermore open, insightful and, for some, relatable.
The venture is all-around beautiful in its construction. Di Nunzio offers taut, atmospheric direction that oozes organic underlying power and tough guy attitude. His cinematography is also striking. It perfectly reflects said tone. The editing by Amanda Faughn, sound work and score heard only in the sharp end credits are all equally good. Moreover, Audrey Noone is excellent in her brief turn as Maria. Teddy Pryor as Young Anthony and Di Nunzio as Petey fare just as well. Additionally, the script from Salvi is smartly paced. It is also filled with sharp and realistic banter and convincing central figures.
In turn, “Exeter at Midnight” is a marvelous reflection on crimes of the past and future. It has a lot to say about how such acts eternally afflict the spirit and weigh down the mind. Di Nunzio’s narrative is profound in an organic, earthy way. This is in a manner that many cinematic showcases attempt but often fail. The story has often been told, but rarely with such inherent poignancy. It is also effortlessly entertaining too boot. Simply stated, “Exeter at Midnight” is a knockout.