After starting afresh with her family and new business – a bar, Jo Lee-Haywood finds herself in more trouble, this time with the local gangsters in the independent feature Pickings.
Usher Morgan seems to be a writer/director who is capable in any genre. It was just over two years ago when we had the pleasure of watching and reviewing his short comedy film Prego (review here) which told the tale of a woman meeting up with a former one night stand in order to inform him of her pregnancy. Now, with Pickings, Morgan has created a violent tale of a woman’s desperation to protect her family. It’s a film that sits at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from his previous effort.
The movie starts with a shot of a bruised, battered and bleeding man tied to a chair. He is then confronted by a woman wearing spurs. The woman, who talks as if she is all business and no-nonsense, is Jo Lee-Haywood (played by Elyse Prince). After a little back-and-forth, Jo kills the man in cold blood, by shooting him in the head a point-blank range.
You see, Jo wasn’t born a killer, she was made that way due to the hand that life dealt her. Through flashbacks, we see her husband being killed and herself being put into a coma thanks to some underworld types. Once she awoke, she found that she had also lost a young daughter. So she and her remaining children have moved, bought a new home and a bar called ‘Pickings’. Life seems to be on the mend when a gangster singles out her business as one her wants to own, which leads to him sending round his heavies to scare her into signing over the deeds. Little do they know though, that Jo is not easily scared and is willing to fight fire-with-fire.
Whilst the story may not seem like its anything new – it has hints of Roadhouse and Kill Bill in equal measure – Morgan stylishly transforms the look of the film to make it his own. Using comic book-like techniques with flashy editing and sound effects, mixed with in-your-face title cards introducing each major character when they first appear on-screen. Even one of the gangsters – Sam Barone (Yaron Urbas) is coloured in black-and-white whilst everything and everyone is in colour. Think of the opposite of Schindler’s List, where the girl in the red dress is seen whilst everything else is black-and-white. It’s these little touches that stand out. Morgan also opts to shoot the movie with a Spaghetti Western feel, although it is very much set in modern day. Even the music is reminiscent of the Wild West, with the score being courtesy of Katie Vincent, who also plays Jo’ oldest daughter Scarlet Lee-Haywood and took the lead in the aforementioned Prego.
With a limited release set for March 2nd in twenty-one cinemas across six cities, Pickings is definitely an independent feature film that is recommended. Morgan has created (along with his cast and crew) a stylish and bloody affair that should be enjoyed by many.