May 23, 2022

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Evaluation: Houston-shot indie ‘Playing God’ is a wholly enjoyable thriller

3 min read

Luke Benward, Michael McKean and Hannah Kasulka in ‘Playing God,’ which was shot in Houston

Picture: Courtesy Scott Brignac

In the films, the very long con usually stays reduced to the floor, relying on feints and tricks which, in hindsight, have been right in entrance of you all along. The new Houston-based mostly film “Playing God” will take a diverse tact. Its royal rip-off comes flavored with a non secular dimension, or at minimum the illusion of one particular, raising the stakes for both of those the perpetrators and the mark. As it turns out, bringing God into the combine conjures all fashion of ethical dilemmas.

Rachel (Hannah Kasulka) and Micah (Luke Benward) are orphaned twins who have fashioned themselves into competent con artists, doing the job brief rackets and prolonged. Charming, desirable, they know how to use what they’ve got – until finally Micah’s earlier catches up with them in the kind of a poor man named Vaughn (Mark Menchaca of “Ozark”). It would seem Micah has bilked Vaughn out of $100,000 currently being a terrible man, Vaughn is completely ready to enjoy hardball to recoup his cash.

Guiding THE SCENES: Why the director shot ‘Playing God’ in Houston.

These early moments create “Playing God” as a slick, sharply penned balancing act amongst comedy and thriller, with a lean funk rating (by Joshua Moore) and a entire lot of downtown Houston (together with plenty of drone photographs). There’s one thing blithe about the tone, even when we’re led to consider Rachel and Micah’s life are in danger.

Then matters begin to get exciting. The twins are alerted to the presence of Ben (Alan Tudyk), a billionaire on a desperate spiritual quest pursuing the death of his youthful daughter. Tudyk, a person of the very best character actors in the video game, manages to infuse this tragic character with comic notes. To Micah, nevertheless, he’s just a likely mark, and an unusually rich a single at that. How can the twins use Ben’s non secular anguish to individual him from his income?

This brings us to the film’s other golden supporting overall performance, and to the leap of religion expected of the viewers. The twins spend a pay a visit to to their previous mentor Frank (Michael McKean, finest identified these days for his perform on “Better Phone Saul”). Frank operates a skating rink, a magnificently prolonged, dim place where by he spends a lot of his time disinfecting the skates. Rachel and Micah have a thing grander in head: basically playing God for the bereaved Ben, in hopes of in some way fleecing him dry.

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This is in which you both go in which “Playing God” is having you – possibly McKean could move for the Almighty? – or you get off the trip. Except it is basically attainable to do the two. It is a slender conceit that Ben is shut sufficient to the end of his rope to acquire the ruse, no matter how very well Tudyk and McKean market it. But you never have to imagine it to love it. What doesn’t work on a logic stage makes sense in accordance to the people and performances. And the twists – a con movie generally has twists – are rather gratifying, even if you see them coming. (I did not, but I rarely do).

‘Playing God’


Operating time: 95 minutes

The place: Opens Aug. 6 at Studio Motion picture Grill Pearland Star Cinema Grill, Richmond Star Cinema Grill Springwoods, Spring Star Cinema Grill Baybrook, Friendswood Star Cinemal Grill, Cypress Star Cinema Grill, Missouri City Star Cinema Grill, College Station.

***1/2 (out of 5)

Penned and directed by Houston’s Scott Brignac, “Playing God” is a extensively proficient independent movie with lots on its head. Two of my favorite inquiries in this article: How do ethics participate in into the artwork of the rip-off? And does religious desperation make a single extra probably to feel? That “Playing God” features number of pat solutions is a indication of its ambition, and a good reason to enjoy. It may well be slick, but it is not shallow.

Chris Vognar is a Houston-based mostly writer.

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