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Alex Ferrari
Cast: Stephanine Michaels, Josh Randall, Frank Rodriquez, Derek Latta

Joanne Ross

Septemeber 4, 2008



Welcome to the Grindhouse.  Now playing: Cyn, a short-subject film by writer/director/producer Alex Ferrari.

Cyn would definitely be right at home as part of a double-feature bill at the local grindhouse, those movie theaters of old that I miss so much where you could catch two flicks all for the price of a single ticket. The film’s subject is apropos as grindhouses, toward the last years of their existence—not in the beginning—were the places to go for low budget, pumped up, testosterone-laden cinema—exploitation, sexploitation, colorful language and violence. Cyn appears to honor that tradition.

In the opening scene, the title character, the “damsel-in-distress” Cyn (Stephaine Michaels in the requisite t-shirt, booty shorts, and high heels) has just been abducted by two thugs, Mr. Sugar (Josh Randall) and Otto (Frank Rodriguez), under the orders of an unnamed client and taken to an abandoned building. In typical cat and mouse fashion, Sugar and Otto taunt the visibly frightened Cyn, whose full lower lip quivers like a gelatin mold, while a mysterious man watches the proceedings from another room on a video monitor. Suddenly—like Jekyll and Hyde—Cyn drops the victim pose and turns the tables on her captors.  Guns and macho posturing aside, Sugar and Otto are no match for Cyn when she starts messing with Sugar’s head. In a heart beat, the now paranoid Sugar trains his gun on Otto and blows him away. One down, one to go. Cyn then leaps up and employing quasi-martial arts moves worthy of Christie Love, Cleopatra Jones, and Coffey, kicks Sugar’s ass and drops him to the floor, where he lies helpless.

And now for the big finish. Enter Daddy (Derek Latta), the mysterious voyeur in the other room. He greets Cyn (“Nice job” he says) and with a knowing look, hands her a grenade. I think you can guess Sugar’s fate. Cyn does a “bang-up” job.

Short subject films are a great challenge for filmmakers. Because of the brevity, the director has to economize to get his/her point across is the most succinct, powerful way. So the first big decision is, does the filmmaker choose to tell a story? Or, does s/he forgo story in favor of style—creating an impression, capturing a brief moment in time, creating atmosphere? Is the goal content (story), form (design), or may be a little bit of both?

In terms of story telling or plot, Ferrari’s film Cyn is a little ambiguous—there are at least three possibilities I can see initially. At first glance, it appears to be a movie about a victim outwitting her tormentors. But that doesn’t work because Cyn’s abrupt swerve from victim to aggressor reveals her true character and exposes her victim pose for exactly what it is—a pose. Cyn is no victim. She’s a tough, strong, in-your-face kind of gal.  Besides, she also has the dope on Sugar and Otto, which is how she is able to unnerve Sugar enough to turn him against Otto. The abduction is a game, and she’s in on it.

Is it instead a story of revenge / double-cross? Is Daddy out to get Sugar and Otto for double-crossing him in the past? Unfortunately, that doesn’t work either, because 1) Sugar and Otto don’t know who hired them—he’s known only as the “client” and 2) more importantly, neither Sugar nor Daddy recognize each other when Daddy walks into the room later in the film.  In no way does the film establish any existing or prior relationship between Daddy and the two thugs.

So that leaves only the third possibility—the most likely, and for me, the most fun. It appears the whole abduction scenario is really a kinky, sexual role-play fantasy for Daddy and Cyn. Even his name is a giveaway. Daddy seems to have a fetish for putting Cyn through her paces, and Cyn clearly enjoys indulging him. Scenes in the film bear this out: Daddy, the voyeur, sitting in another room watching the action on the video monitor; Cyn’s abrupt change from victim to vamp; Daddy’s compliment to Cyn after she quickly dispatches Sugar and Otto; and most telling of all, the final dialogue between Cyn and Daddy. After blowing up Sugar, Cyn turns to Daddy:

            Cyn:                 “Daddy, you are so twisted.”

            Daddy:             “Cyn, you have no idea.”

Ah yes, there is nothing quite so stimulating as watching your “drop-it-like-it’s-hot” girlfriend deal the coup de grace to a couple of inept gangstas whose guns are bigger than their brains. What an aphrodisiac. I love it!

In Cyn, Ferrari chose to give us both content and form.  Aided by his talented cast, especially Stephaine Michaels, he succeeds admirably in telling us a twisted, kinky little story in the spirit of the grindhouse tradition. He also succeeds in creating an appropriate visual style and atmosphere that works, an edgy, grungy, neo-noir look, the kind you might find in the films of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino (remember their recent collaboration, Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof?). Even the title sequences, especially the closing credits, are cool and edgy—think “James Bond title sequences trippin’ on acid”; that about sums it up.

All the way around, a great effort. To quote Daddy’s comment to Cyn, I say to the talented Alex Ferrari, “Nice job.”*--JR


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