Two mismatched detectives investigate a series of mysterious midnight deaths, and while searching the first victim they discover a strange photograph that shows the next victim. We review director Jake Hunsicker’s supernatural thriller The Arrangement.
How The Arrangement came to be made is a story unto itself. Written by Andrew Hunsicker around 2000, the script drifted around Hollywood for a few years and was optioned by a couple of seasoned directors but then returned to Hunsicker once the options had run out. After waiting almost 20 years, Hunsicker’s son Jake (who was aged 6 when the script was first written) reworked the screenplay with his dad and directed it himself. A real family affair, look out for other Hunsicker family members involved in the film.
Jake Hunsicker directs The Arrangement with a lot of energy, and despite having my initial reservations at the beginning, I went on to enjoy the movie. The first issue I came across was during the beginning – The Arrangement didn’t seem to know what type of film it wanted to be; it was stuck between a strange hybrid of noir, comedy, and thriller. The Imagery was suitably dark, the characters appropriately sleazy, and the murder mystery fittingly intriguing. Yet at first, the dialogue didn’t seem to suit the style of the film. There were a couple of awkward one-liners and sarcastic comments that felt a little out of place, and then there was the introduction of our co-lead character, a bumbling, hypochondriac man child, Detective Harry Frick.
Frick is played by Danny Donnelly as if he is in a slapstick comedy. It’s not that Donnelly is bad, he is quite good, it just that Harry seems to belong to a completely different film. The first few questioning scenes are a case in point – one of the interviewees begins to cry a little too much, while another is dressed in S+M bondage gear. These scenes didn’t sit right with the content and added to the genre confusion. Thankfully we have a great performance from Jennifer M Kay as his partner, Detective Jessica Alvarez – a pocket rocket of strength, honour, and loyalty to balance out Harry’s ticks, flicks and shtick.
Also a mention for Hollywood star Eric Roberts, who again shows up in a memorable supporting role giving his support to the next generation of filmmakers. Including The Arrangement, Roberts has been seen in thirty movies during 2020, and according to IMDB, has another seventy-four upcoming projects. He is quite simply one of the hardest working actors in the business, and I find myself singing his praises every time he pops up in something.
Brian Keenan’s cinematography gives us some memorable nods towards noir, with scenes darkly lit and some shots from behind objects that are slightly obscuring the frame. He also provides us with some new imagery of the Philadelphia underworld; his choice of colours reminiscent of early Giallo as well as some great shots in a church, giving the film some scope. While the soundtrack by John Avarese, although seldom heard, helps to emphasise the mood and tension
The Arrangement is director Jake Hunsicker’s first feature and he does some sterling work, showing a brashness and confidence that helps to paper over the cracks of this low-budget noir. He has used the obvious influences of David Fincher and Jordan Peele to help carve his own niche where he can show supporting characters who are not always as they seem, leaving his leads blind-sided.
The idea of The Arrangement is slightly better than the execution, and towards the end, the twists become too mechanical and obvious. Still, after the initial 10 minutes where it struggles to find its footing, the next 90 minutes see The Arrangement develop quite convincingly, never slipping into easy shock tactics. All the performances are strong and this is in part thanks to Andrew Hunsicker’s screenplay who, as the writer, creates plausible and literate dialogue that all the cast, particularly Roberts, devour.