There was a time, long before the internet, that I went out of my way to find out absolutely anything about a movie I was excited about. I begged my parents for issues of Fango, mailed away for catalogs, actually read the entertainment section of the newspaper, literally anything I could do to get information about a movie. Here we are, years later, and all of that information is literally in our hands at any given second, and I find myself going out of my way to not know anything about a film going into it. Word of mouth, hype, false praise, etc. run rampant these days and nine times out of ten, I find myself in total disagreement with the vast majority, be they positive or negative. We’ve all got our own taste in things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As such, I like to form my own opinions. Having said all that, you may be thinking to yourself about all the wonderful things you’ve heard about Joe Stauffer and David Long’s Pieces of Talent, and getting the feeling that it didn’t quite thrill me the way it did seemingly everybody else on Earth. You’d be right.
That synopsis would lead you to believe that a girl named Charlotte (Kristi Ray) is the main character here, and while it’s true she would probably be considered the protagonist, the film most certainly doesn’t center around her. She plays second fiddle to the film’s villain David (David Long, who also co-wrote). Pieces of Talent is basically David just running around seemingly at random killing people as a part of an “artistic” film he’s working on. It feels like somebody is attempting to put together a large puzzle here, using different pieces from other, different puzzles. By the end, David attempts to explain a plot that interconnects all the victims, but as the concept had been completely ignored up until that point, 80 minutes into the 90 minute runtime, it felt forced and wasn’t particularly satisfying.
Synopsis from IMDB:
This story centers around Charlotte, a struggling young actress who can’t catch a break. In an effort to support herself and her hopeless mother, Charlotte holds a job as a cocktail waitress at a seedy, local strip club and hates every minute of it. During a cigarette break late one evening she witnesses an altercation between an overzealous bouncer and an unfortunate passerby, David. David makes movies and given Charlotte’s career interests a friendship quickly develops. Soon enough, David mentions a project he has in the works that she would be perfect for and an excited Charlotte agrees to take part. She has no idea what she has signed up for.
That sort of thing can be forgiven in some instances, particularly in the (groan) “torture porn” genre, as long as when it comes to the kills, they’re at least equal parts brutal and entertaining. Sadly, Pieces of Talent drops the ball in this regard also. That’s not to say there isn’t blood though. There’s blood, plenty of it. The disappointment comes in when David takes the time to build elaborate sets for the kills, then doesn’t even utilize them. For instance, he straps one guy into a chair, with his wrists restrained out in front of him, a large pendulum looking contraption, with all kinds of saw blades and the like on it, swinging ominously above them. When it comes down to the kill though, all we get is David smashing the guys writst with a small hammer and a quick cut away. That friends, is the very definition of a tease, and Pieces of Talent is full of them.
Things aren’t all negative though, this is a very well made film. It’s well shot, the acting is good, David Long in particular turns in a fairly creepy performance as David. That smile will haunt me for a couple of days. As mentioned there’s blood, and at times the film does exhibit a pretty substantial mean streak, I was just constantly left wanting. There was so much wasted potential. Couple that with a plot that at first appears to be non-existant then attempts to throw itself together at the last minute, before concluding in a highly unsatisfying manner, and you’ve got yourself the movie equivalent of going into an underground massage parlor and not getting the happy ending you paid for in advance.