Review by Dan Skip Allen
The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is Robert Machoian's latest film after The Killing of Two Lovers, which was a Sundance hit a few years ago. Machoian once again works with Clayne Crawford, the star of his previous film. Machoian likes to get at the heart of who these men are and why they do what they do. His films dissect what it is to be a man in today's society, which is fascinating given how the idea of masculinity has evolved in today's society.
A family man, Joseph Chambers (Clayne Crawford), desires to go hunting, despite his wife Tess (Jordana Brewster) insisting he not go. He just has it in his mind to do this, even though he hasn't been properly trained to hunt on his own. He's an insurance agent, not a hunter. Before he goes, he says goodbye to his son (Colt Crawford). He's also a baseball fan and pretends to be a pitcher when he's alone walking along. He even tries to convince his friend, who borrows his rifle, to go with him. When he accidentally shoots a man, he has a tough decision on his hands.
Machoian uses some interesting tricks to create tension and a sense of dread in this film. The music composed by William Ryan Fritch is overlaid with the scenes of Crawford's character running in the woods or just walking along, which is something new to me. It's not necessarily a score per se. It's just random sounds that are important to show how the various scenes are filled with pressure and anxiety. The music is a key aspect of the movie. With one primary antagonist, he also gets a lot of mileage out of focusing on close-up shots of the title character played by Crawford. These shots show his distress and the turmoil he's in.
The film asks an important question for all of us. What would we do if we were in a situation like this man? How would we react if we did something like this? It's not an easy place to be in. This man isn't who he wants to be, but he's trying to be better for his family and himself. The decision he chooses isn't necessarily one we'd choose, but who knows? We are not in this situation. Crawford plays this role completely different from his other role in a Machoian film. He was more of a tough guy in that film. Here, he has a lot of anguish about who he is as a man and what he did to this vagrant in the woods.
The movie was shot in America and the scenery, like in his last film, is beautiful. The cinematographer, Oscar Ignacio Jimenez, captures the wilderness in vivid realism. The hills and streams are gorgeous to look at. The fall is always a beautiful time of year, and the foliage is one of the best parts of the fall season. The leaves on the trees turn all kinds of colors: orange, yellow, and red. I miss that part of living up north in New England when I was a kid.
With the film mainly focused on Crawford's character, there aren't many other actors in the movie, besides the ones I mentioned. Jeffery Dean Morgan plays the town Police Chief. He's probably the biggest star in the film. How he handles his scenes is very good. He is very subtle with his dialogue and uses his scenes as moments of solace and remorse for Crawford's character and what happened. In smaller roles, everybody is exceptional. Machoian is good at picking actors for his films. They bring out the humanity he's looking for in his characters.
Writer/Director Robert Machoian likes to leave his films with a little ambiguity. He wants the viewer to determine what the end of the story should actually be. I like that part about his movies. This particular main character played by Crawford has a moral compass about him, which makes him have some anguish about what he did, but he also knows that what he did was an accident. These types of films are the ones I like. They put characters in a difficult situation, and we as the viewer have to decide if what they did was right or wrong. Besides the story and acting, the music and cinematography in The Integrity of Joseph Chambers were very good, and they added elements that made the film better in the end. Machoian is a filmmaker to watch for in the future.
The Integrity of Joseph Chambers hits VOD on February 17.