Last July we broke the news that Robert Conway brought his Grind-House project ‘Sickle’, starring Kane Hodder as Sheriff Sickle and Tiffany Shepis as Jenna, back from the dead after it had been on hiatus for a while. It seemed then that many had already written off the film, not realizing this is how it sometimes goes in the independent world. While the big studios simply cough up a couple of grand and move on, for any independent filmmaker the slightest hurdle can mean a serious setback, temporary at best. Be it as it may, ‘Sickle’ just had it’s world premiere at last weekend’s Phoenix Comicon and, having seen the film, it was well worth the wait. Come inside for our review of ‘Sickle’.
For those of you who missed the synopsis, here it is in brief: A group of stick-up kids rob a mafia run strip club and head for the border but when they enter the town of Redstone, they find that crime is a dish best served cold! Kane Hodder takes the title role as Sheriff Slade Sickle, a man with a true appetite for justice. Whatever the little voice in your head might try to tell you is hidden between the lines; don’t dismiss it. That little voice is probably right.
‘Sickle’ is a high paced wild ride, picking up speed from the first scene and not letting off. Without a chance to warm up for the race, or warning what is coming, the audience is drawn into a roller coaster experience of high impact, almost surreal pictures, carried by a driving soundtrack. From the prologue throughout the opening credits to the beginning of the story in current day Phoenix, Arizona, there is no time to take a deep breath or relax. Half way through the film although, a noticeable change of pace takes place, a transition from a breathless tarantinoesque style to one of more traditional storytelling. Yet what is taken back in regards to speed is more than made up for by the addition of carnage and gore encountered by the main characters.
Set and filmed in and around Phoenix, Arizona, Robert Conway has managed to bring an authenticity and atmospheric density to the screen that could not have been achieved by spending even the most ridiculous amount of money on a built set or CGI. Add to that the effective application of visual effects and image manipulation made possible by shooting the film in 4K raw format, and you have an homage to American Grind-House cinema that bears the potential of carving out it’s own niche in the not too distant future.
‘Sickle’ contains all the elements of a Western – without being one – adapted and transformed into a modern day gangster story, and combined with the blood, gore and cruelty of Grind-House, populated with characters of ‘Sin City’ qualities. Influences from and references to other films, including genre movies, are clearly noticeable. We will although not name titles in order to avoid potential spoilers.
As for the cast of ‘Sickle’; from the lead actors all the way to the extras, everybody’s performance is outstandingly convincing. Kane Hodder in the role of a Sheriff with a quite unique taste for justice fulfills the expectations that come with his uniform very well while providing efficiently for his family… and then some. Without giving away too much of the story, you will ask yourself whether he is good or really one of the bad guys even after the conclusion of ‘Sickle’. Dan Higgins delivers an outstanding Gas-Station attendant by the name of Mordin, who is even weirder than you would expect him to be, considering the circumstances. Tiffany Shepis and Rena Riffel make an excellent pair of female leads, equally matched by Dustin Leighton and Robert’s brother Owen Conway as their male counterparts. Upcoming actor and musician Shane Dean’s performance, who’s role as Chino provides a crucial element of ‘Sickle’, is equally impressive as Michael Harrelson’s portrayal of Boris.
Our take on ‘Sickle’: There is not a single argument or actor that should make you want to see ‘Sickle’, there are many of each. The performances are outstanding across the board, the visual language is impressive and the soundtrack almost epic. The change in pace halfway through the film might throw some viewers off at first, and the somewhat sudden and open end might leave some of you not as satisfied as desired. We have a feeling, though, the latter is a hint towards a potential sequel. Until we get news about that, go see ‘Sickle’, you really should.
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