After being fired from his job, dumped by his girlfriend and hounded by creditors, Jim tries to put his life back together only to find himself in the middle of a cartel war, forced into attempting murder and fleeing from two violent hit women. Here is our take on Alejandro Montoya Marin’s ‘Monday.’
When ‘Monday’ arrived into the Screen Critix offices this week, it was sent to us along with a note from its director Alejandro Montoya Marin.
“I have to give you this explanation about how this movie was made because it was part of a reality TV show called ‘Rebel Without A Crew.’ I was chosen by Robert Rodriguez to make my first feature film the same way he made ‘El Mariachi back in 1992. We only had $7000 dollars, no crew, 14 days to shoot, 2 days preparation; 2 hours to cast while we had a reality TV crew follow us.”
Now to be chosen by an auteur the calibre of Robert Rodriguez is impressive in itself but the real test comes with the quality of the film that is made. As talented as Marin is, and this talent is undoubtedly on show in his film, it doesn’t reach the heights of ‘El Mariachi’ but what it does do is have a lot of fun trying to.
Marin’s ‘Monday’ is a comedy, according to the strict definition of the word. It ends happily, there are indications along the way that we’re not supposed to take it seriously and there are a few laughs. However it also wants to be nightmarish, thrilling and action packed all at the same time and unfortunately, Marin overreaches. Because the plot becomes far more farcical than tense as the film progresses, this mixture of tones and genre’s doesn’t always work.
Monday builds its nightmare situation step-by-step, beginning with a snappily cut opening few minutes that give us future dialogue from the film and introduces us to Jim played by Jamie H. Jung; a likable actor whose persona and performance reminded me of Colin Hanks. Jim is just your average, everyday guy who holds down a girlfriend and a boringly anonymous office job. He wakes up late on a Monday morning and then suddenly his life begins to fall apart as he loses his job, his girl and his house all before dinner and then proceeds to be thrown into a number of strange encounters.
It’s easy to see what Marin had in mind for ‘Monday’ as it wears its influences on its sleeve – 80’s comedy thrillers like Scorsese’s ‘After Hours’ and Jonathan Demme’s ‘Something Wild’ figure highly, as we see all the tropes of these two cult classics throughout ‘Monday’s’ 48 minutes run time. With the addition of some violence and buddy movie aspects, there is also a touch of Pineapple Express. Unfortunately, the writing isn’t as strong as these movies and the jokes, although good when they hit, are few and far between.
At first, we think perhaps Jim is the victim of random bad luck, as he is confronted with nightmares both tragic and trivial; little accidents, phone calls from debt collectors, ominous neighbors, escalating arguments and two violent bloodthirsty hit girls. Only later, much later, do we find how some of the things are connected and even then it doesn’t make any logical sense. For Jim, this plague of bad luck seems generated by some unexplained yet predetermined path.
Thankfully Marin has not made a bland movie or a depressing character study as each of his characters are drawn sharply, given quirky dialogue and allowed to be offbeat and funny. (Kenneth McGlothin) as Jim’s friend Paul has a fun scene in his stereo store where he tries to make sense of his ex-wife, who continually bothers him and drives him around the bend. Sofia Embid as Hitman Sam has a dry, sardonic angle on things. Anna Schatte as her partner in killing, speaks as if she’s in a 40’s noir film and then verges into psychopath Mr. Blonde territory when it becomes clear she enjoys her job far too much. While Joe Perez has great fun playing a slimy ladies man with no sense of self-awareness, believing he is God’s gift to the opposite sex.
“Monday” is a remake of a short 10-minute film Marin did in 2016 with the same title. I understand the constraints put on the cast and crew due to the competition element of the situation, but there is a longer more fulfilling movie in here somewhere that can give the characters more room to grow. The soundtrack is fitting and helps carry the film along while the cinematography captures the fear and escalation of Jim’s problems really well. Those quick and stylish editing techniques keep the pace up and the performances are all very strong. Marin deserves a lot kudos for attempting a difficult action-packed comedy movie, rather than arguably an easier to make dramatic character piece.
“Monday” is a most curious film, as an experiment, it is a fascinating but not fully successful attempt at breaking boundaries, but the style of the film creates in us the same feeling that the events in the film create in its hero. This, in my opinion, makes the movie very, very interesting and well worth watching.