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The Independent Critic

Michael H. Harper
Robert Pralgo, Stephen Caudill, Steve Coulter, Mindy Castellanos
9 Mins.
Contains graphic material not suited for kids


 "Take Me Out" Review 
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Parker Lam (Robert Pralgo, The Vampire Diaries) is a baseball Hall-of-Famer serving out the few minutes that remain of his time on death row before his execution. When his former buddy and ex-teammate Alex Mackenzie (Stephen Caudill, Madea's Big Happy Family) unexpectedly visits, Lam is finally forced to come face-to-face with the true brutality of his crime and its impact on himself and those around him.

The directorial debut of Atlanta-based filmmaker Michael H. Harper, Take Me Out is a haunting story that initially seems slight in impact as Harper allows the story to slowly build in emotional impact.

Robert Pralgo has just the right amount of cocky swagger as a man who's smart enough to realize he's f***ed up his own life, but also got just enough narcissistic macho bravado to not really accept blame for his actions. Pralgo's jailhouse swagger is nicely complemented by the simmering intensity of Stephen Caudill's turn as Alex Mackenzie, a guy who saunters onto the scene calmly before spiraling into a whirlwind of in-your-face truth-telling that leaves both Parker Lam and the audience with jaws dropped.

D.P. Tim Glover expertly gives Take Me Out a Green Mile type of feeling, weaving together the ominous sensations of tragedy and jailhouse drama with an eerie sense of spirituality that seems to carry with it the message that this last chance meeting between these two men is of absolutely necessity before Lam's life on earth comes to a close.

Take Me Out also benefits from not one but two terrific versions of a certain traditional ballfield tune (I'll give you one guess), the first a sultry, noirish take performed by Gwen Hughes that helps to open the film and the second a hard rock version by RATL over the film's closing credits.

There were two obviously intentional choices that didn't quite work, at least not for this writer, beginning with the film's opening scene, beautifully shot by Glover but a scene that seems to intentionally linger on a couple particular shots clearly designed to lead the viewer down towards a certain line of thought. While this type of shot is certainly far from rare, in this case it lingers just a tad too long to the point where the shot feels more manipulative than emotionally resonant.

The use of "Kings" as the fictitious baseball team for which our two ball players played also proved to be rather surprising, mostly courtesy of a "Kings" baseball cap with a logo that closely resembled that of the NBA's Sacramento Kings and, even moreso, the Vegas Kings minor league football team. While it's highly doubtful that any pro baseball team would have authorized use of their logo for such a film, the use of a logo similar to that of other pro sports teams in another sport caused me to think about the discrepancy and to get distracted away from the film.

Despite a couple of minor concerns, Take Me Out is an intelligently written and involving psychological thriller that should enjoy quite the life on the independent film festival circuit. The film will have its world premiere at Pasadena's Action on Film Festival in late July, 2011 and this appearance will unquestionably be followed by many other film festivals. With his directing debut, writer/director Michael H. Harper reveals tremendous promise with an inspired gift for visual cues and an ability to weave together the cinematic experience in both sight and sound.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic