Director, writer, and star, Erik C. Bloomquist brings us The Cobblestone Corner, a Neo-Noir thriller with snappy dialogue, strong characters, and a solid premise that one could easily find on any college campus: the destruction of a professor’s career thanks to questionable means. But we’re not on a college campus. We’re at the Alfred Pierce Preparatory School where posh kids live up to tradition by being stalwart and smarmy, as they flip imaginary bitcoins to decide if they should go to Princeton or Harvard.
Right from the beginning, however, we know something’s different about this story. After all, we’re with high school kids who are certainly in an adult situation, and handling the world as if they’ve had years of experience under their belts. Even the school’s newspaper, run by the unyielding Allan Archer (Bloomquist), tackles the periodical as if it were The New York Times. You want to find out about the next school bake sale or whose birthday is coming up? Forget it. The Pierce Gazette is about hard news: baseball team steroid controversy, the all-girl fight club, and more.
Sure, I was on my high school paper, and as Feature Editor when I wrote a piece about a crack in the gym wall (almost twenty feet long, mind you), it was cut to avoid issues with the administration. But when Archer begins his narration about how he’s “different”, he’s informing the audience that this whole tale is different. Think of Bloomquist as bridging the gap between Rian Johnson’s Brick and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. We’re definitely in an alternative and cooler universe for certain.
In The Cobblestone Corner, as in Brick, the teens talk like they’re thirty, and their mature nature is frightening. It’s as if they started mixing mommy’s cocktails at age nine when they had their first cigars. Bloomquist takes it one step further by having the characters deliver banter from the forties. The great thing? It all works. Thanks to excellent characters, and a consistency in how they collectively carry themselves, suspension of belief about age and capability is not only acceptable, it’s warranted as well as welcomed. Forget about tears and whining, these kids most likely handle stress with Xanax and single malt scotch.
Besides Archer, we have Logan Underwood (Alec Richards), the first year student with a lot to learn about writing hard-hitting news. Johnny Baker (Adam Weppler), the kid who could probably run a prison because he can get his hands on anything, shines as that guy in the know. Nicholas Tucci plays the patient yet stern teacher/advisor to Archer, and he works hard to make certain his Editor-in-Chief knows his place, even though Archer maintains a little smartass smile along with every quip. And Elizabeth Merriweather (Madeleine Dauer), the femme fatale who knows she’s gorgeous and could manipulate most anyone to do anything – but can she get Archer to do her bidding and investigate a respected instructor’s sudden demise? Sure, there are others of Peirce’s finest with goals and desires, and this creates a great soup of characters that keeps the story rolling at a high rate of speed and the dialogue razor sharp.
Cinematographer Mike Magilnik kept the camera moving, and he brings the viewer some great angles, even in talking head scenes that would normally sink larger productions. The great thing, especially with the Neo-Noir element, is that he didn’t rely on dark scenes and long shadows. Yes, they were present on occasion, but just like Bloomquist’s dialogue, we weren’t hit with classic Noir tropes at every turn. Otherwise, with a little more money and a hairstylist, The Cobblestone Corner could easily have been a period piece.
As editor, Bloomquist knew when to keep scenes crisp and fast like Sam Peckinpaugh, and when to let them roll on a little longer to create atmosphere and intrigue. This helped maintain a steady beat that also matched the rhythm of the dialogue. Therefore, the last item to work in concert with the other elements is Gyom Amphoux’s score – and like a diligent gumshoe on the case, he always hit the right notes at the right time.
So what happened to the professor who may have been forced out of a job? You’ll have to wait and watch The Cobblestone Corner for yourself. Most important, any producer can see that this short would make for an excellent and offbeat television series (on cable without restrictions, please), or, with a few more additions, one awesome feature film. The only misgivings to be addressed: it was hard to tell if the lovely Madeleine Dauer was trying to play it sultry or coy near film’s end, and it would be great to see Archer in some sort of danger. And as for those who might complain about little to no character arc for our journalist hero, well, that’s Noir, baby. The reason Archer can take on the mystery is because of who he is. It’s Archer’s personality, his character, that leads us to story’s end.
Now, why did I write about a film that isn’t a horror? Because, if you recall from Bloomquist’s THE LAST KNOCK interview from February 2014 (http://bit.ly/1EqMK9b), he has his mind set on his horror, Founder’s Day. Like all filmmakers, he needs funding to make that happen, and it’s hoped that The Cobblestone Corner will prove to be an excellent calling card – and it should definitely open doors as well as wallets. To find out more about The Cobblestone Corner, visit http://www.erikbloomquist.com/, and to learn more about Erik C. Bloomquist, check out his IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4620395/.
4.5 out of 5 stars
(Photo: The Cobblestone Corner Facebook Page)