Directed by: Jaron Lockridge
Written by: Jaron Lockridge
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Once a crook. Always a crook. One could argue that this way of thinking easily leads to all the bad society has to offer. Ever tried to get a job with a criminal record? Even that poor soul digging ditches for minimum wage, usually has to go through a background check in the world of today. So what's a man, or woman to do if they've made a few mistakes in life? Society says to get a job and contribute, yet that same society is quick to shy away from anyone who wants to give it the ol' college try. It's a catch 22 really. One that literally forces many people back down the path of the crook. We all do what we have to do to survive after all. This is where Jaron Lockridge's "Hongo" sets up shop. That mentality that only the truly mean, crooked, and sludge of society ever make mistakes. These people will never be good contributors to society, and will only drain the system. A criminal is a criminal no matter the crime and as such, should be wiped from the face of the planet.
These questions of society today are interesting in their own right. The overall morality of the average citizen is not only questioned, but downright challenged through the clever sub-text of this story. As for originality? These types of stories have been done before. Numerous times and numerous ways. The "stick it to the man" upheaval you may think I'm playing at, regarding this title, is not what makes "Hongo" different. What makes this film unusual, is the mash-up of accepted genres. Lockridge, with his cast and crew, deliver up a mix of movie spectacles all rolled into one. You like movies with a social message? "Hongo" has it. You like adventure in the style of The Hunger Games? It's here. You like zombies? Yes. You read that correctly. Zombies. Well do you? Although not Romero zombies per se, these characters are more inline with traditional Voodoo zombies - but a zombie is a zombie correct? Yes guys and gals, "Hongo" has that as well. Individually, all these sub-genres can be interesting when handled correctly. When all squashed in together however, you get either something really cool, or a complete bomb. Usually. The thing with "Hongo" is that somehow, it does manage to cram these styles into one film. It also manages to walk that thin line that is so rare. "Hongo" is not an amazing mix up of style, yet it's also not a bad one. I think it's also safe to say that had Lockridge had a decent budget, this probably would have been a pretty damn good title. I did mention "Hongo" is a micro budgeted movie right? I can't deny that producing a decent micro film, a feature length one at that, is an amazing feat. Most micro productions I've viewed recently are really hard to get through. That may sound harsh, but it's a reality. A lot can be said for the grit of micro producers that actually finish their productions. That doesn't mean the movie going public will appreciate what goes into making such a title. To most, it's simply a B film that is generally laughable. This is, for the most part, not the case here. "Hongo" is not only watchable, but it's a decent flick. Considering what I've written above, you need to give credit where credit is due. For the genre spanning plot and the great performances from the cast, "Hongo" may not win the next Oscar - but is still easily worthy of your time.
Speaking of the cast, I was actually quite impressed. Moments exist within this title, where the numerous cast members outperform some of my/our favorite celebrities. Maybe not through the entire film, but enough to notice. A full shout-out to each character and their respective actor would take a load of extra space, so let me just write a compliment to their combined talent. Very nice work.
As a micro film, you can expect a production that contains some flaws. Although not even close to the amount you may be expecting. Some minor audio issues exist, lighting flaws and what I can only describe as a "wobble" here and there, within the shots. I tend to think this was a post-production issue, maybe caused by some scaling or shake reduction in the shots. I can't be sure. I only know the issue exists. Interestingly enough, most of the issues are closer to the start of the film. Or perhaps they do continue, and I just got used to seeing them. I can't stress enough that these problems are minor compared to most. It also brings me back to something I wrote earlier in this review. Had "Hongo" been infused with a larger budget, I suspect this would have been a stellar film.
For an independent film spanning an hour and a half, with a micro budget, I really have nothing overtly negative to write. For what it is, this is a fantastic film. The hard work has paid off. The average viewer however, simply doesn't care to compare. A movie is a movie. Good is good and bad is bad. "Hongo" is one of those titles that is simply "good enough" to be considered good by most. I can't write for everyone, only myself, but I enjoyed this film. It's always a pleasure to see something independent and low budget, that I actually enjoyed watching. We can all understand the constraints of creating something with nothing. "Hongo" though, as a film, is far from nothing. More than a few micro filmmakers could learn a thing or three.