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The Riot Act (2017) – a review by Mark Leeper.

October 9, 2019 | By | Reply More

In this independent film, ‘The Riot Act’, probably crowd-funded, we get a father/daughter story of mystery and revenge set in 1901 and 1903. A troop of vaudeville players comes to a town and their presence sparks conflict between the part-owner of the local opera house and his rage-filled daughter.

While the writing could have used more work, the production designer makes a small budget work double time; the look and feel of 1901 and 1903 Arkansas feels authentic to me, but then what do I know about the turn-of-the-century Arkansas? Directed and written by: Devon Parks.

Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10.

In 1903, a company of players bring their brand of ‘high-end’ vaudeville to an Arkansas town packed with secrets. Among the company is the attractive woman Allye (played by Lauren Sweetser). But there is more going on just beneath the surface than anyone realises, most of it involving some of the town’s past of a couple years before.

It seems that those two years earlier, the acting company was playing this same town. Allye was having a short fling with one of the performers in the troupe. That relationship came to a short sharp conclusion when the town’s resident doctor (played by Brett Cullen), who happens to be Allye’s father and part-owner of the opera house, fatally shoots Alley’s lover.

The doctor, who also partly owns the town’s opera house, has simmered in anger for two years, but now Allye is back and there is bound to be friction. This relationship may not be the only one that will be causing trouble. The actors have invented and introduced stage blood and the exploding blood squib to excite the audience with the action that appears to be really happening in front of the audience. Somehow the film has the texture of a Hammer film and it just needed more of it.

Writer/director Devon Parks’ storytelling is densely written with a slow but intense build. The film’s credit list is very long implying that the film was crowd-sourced to a large but friendly crowd. Emily Danielle Parks (probably a close relation to Devon) created a strong sense of the period with an effective look on what was probably a low budget. I rate this mystery with a small edge of horror a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Mark Leeper

© Mark Leeper 2019

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Category: Films, MEDIA

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