CIVIC DUTY | Omeleto

Neil is a down-on-his-luck sheriff arriving at a crime scene, where a woman is being held hostage by a criminal. He calls it in, insisting he can handle it alone, but the dispatcher decides to send in backup anyway. The backup is on the unusual side: Jackie is a used car salesman who volunteers as the negotiator for their small town. He and Neil jostle for control of the situation, leading to more mishaps and mistakes. When Neil reveals the hostage is an ex-girlfriend engaged to be married to someone else, the situation becomes a lot trickier than it initially seemed. Directed and written by Sam Rubinoff, this loose-limbed, amiable short comedy is a collision of personalities and motives in an increasingly ludicrous situation. Engaging with solid writing and sturdy directing, it's a fun narrative cocktail that throws some grounded yet eccentric characters together, mixes them up and lets them fizz and pop with wryly hilarious results. The straightforward storytelling eschews flash and slickness, wasting no time putting viewers right into the dramatic situation -- though as Neil talks himself up in the patrol car, we know that he's not a typical tough guy. His insecurities get piqued when car salesman Jackie arrives as the volunteer negotiator. 

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Their interactions are full of funny friction, part of which is from when Jackie sold Neil a lemon. But Neil also fears losing control of the situation, not just for his ego's sake, but because one of the hostages is his ex-girlfriend, who he is still hung up on. Actor and comedian Joe List plays Neil, finding a fine balance between the emotional reality of an ineffectual man sincerely holding a torch for his ex and the more comedic moments when he tries to assert an authority he never quite had. As Jackie, actor Tommy Pope has a louder, flashier role, and watching him use his sales techniques and gimmicks as part of his negotiation process is one of the film's highlights. Glib, slick and manipulative, he shepherds the situation in the way he wants -- and almost sells a car in the process. Entertaining, wily and great fun to watch, CIVIC DUTY ends with a series of reveals and zingers, showing things aren't quite what they seemed on the surface -- and that Neil is even more luckless than we thought. Just when you think he will get his comeuppance, another character gets theirs. Ultimately true to each of their characters, it's a clever ending for a shrewd comedy with a soft spot for sad sacks, just trying to make the sale or win the girl, to no avail.