In Review: The Slam (Anson D’Costa, 2020)

Once more: some stars by request – ★★☆☆☆ 

As most of you will know, I very recently reviewed another film by D’Costa – Anson’s Magic, in which Anson performed 40 minutes of magic to showcase his talents, culminating in a magic tournament (which we don’t actually see, mostly due to Covid restrictions). This film, The Slam, follows the same narrative structure of much preparation to a short-lived finale, and it is a notable improvement on his last film as it is more concise and controlled, whilst Anson’s Magic was crammed with footage that didn’t serve the fragile narrative. This film, a minor nine minutes in comparison to the sprawling Anson’s Magic, also shares the same honourable intentions as its predecessor – to inspire young people to follow their dreams (whilst also notably making sure to show the hard work required to do so successfully). It’s a message that I think most people have a soft spot for in films – the almost always satisfying moment when the hero, who we have seen train throughout the film, finally achieves what he set out to, whether it be in sports films like this one (Anson did tell me that he had bigger plans for the film, but that Covid played a part in seeing that those weren’t able to come to fruition, involving more competitors and more of a personal life for protagonist Trevor), or films from other genres (films about teachers tend to have a similar structure – they focus on one specific child in the class, something inevitably disturbs their relationship but they reconcile by the end and see how their teaching has helped the child of their choice – almost never the entire class is involved). 

Anyway, tangents about genre aside – as I said, this is an improvement upon Anson’s Magic, and I think that largely has to do with the editing and the runtime – Anson’s Magic had so much extra footage that it became quite sluggish, and by keeping this film down to nine minutes it flows in a much more accessible way. In fact, I did wish that the final fight sequence went on a little longer – it felt as if it was over before it really had a chance to begin, and lacked tension. The silence over the scene seems a clever addition, but actually I found it a little jarring – maybe music would have been better! 

Speaking of music – the music choice is also better here. Anson only uses one instrumental this time, as opposed to the three or four used in Anson’s Magic, but because of the shorter runtime, the instrumental isn’t overused and doesn’t become annoying. On the topic of audio, I have to bring up the (once again) bizarre narration – the autotune remains an odd choice and adds nothing to the story at all, I’ve no idea why it has been present in either of Anson’s films – it stays a mystery! It’s a charming but bizarre feature, one that I can’t tell if it does more harm than good to the film or not. More takes are definitely needed, and more editing to the voice-over parts, as they often feature little mistakes that aren’t cut and sometimes jarringly loud noises made accidentally that aren’t cut out later – it’s not a huge issue, but it’s also a very easy one to fix, and the audio is of course key to the work.

The real issue here is with the cinematography unfortunately. So many shots are blurred or the brightness is just so high that you can’t physically see what’s happening well at all – I realise this is most likely a budget and camera issue, but it harms the final film a great deal. Not every shot is impossible to see, but every time it happens it’s incredibly distracting… and it happens very often.

Anson clearly has quite an interest in multiple genres of film, having made one focused on magic, one focused on boxing and most recently a suspense thriller – I feel like the best thing for him to do would be to focus in on getting the lighting better, working on refining his editing and then tracking through influences, watching films from his favourite genres (or just any genre he’s interested in) to find some narrative and some visual influences and inspirations – I feel it would help his craft a hell of a lot. As I said, this is an improvement upon his last film (or the last one I reviewed at least – I’m not sure of the release order), but it still needs a lot of basic improvements formally.   

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