Short Starts is a column devoted to kicking off the week with a short film, typically one tied to a new release. Today we look at an early performance by Michael Shannon, whose awesome new movie “Take Shelter” opens this Friday.
Michael Shannon appears to be everywhere right now. He returned to “Boardwalk Empire” in last night’s season premiere; he’s got a major supporting role in the film “Machine Gun Preacher,” which opened decently in a single cinema this weekend; he’s all over the Internet in spy photos for “Man of Steel,” in which he portrays Superman villain General Zod; and starting this Friday the Oscar-nominated actor can be seen starring in the terrifying End of the World paranoia drama “Take Shelter.” I think he deserves another Oscar shot with that film, and I’m very excited for his rising career. Part of me misses the old days, though, when Shannon was just a distinct yet unnameable face, an old-fashioned sort of character actor you’d notice pop up in small parts here and there, from indies like “Jesus’ Son” and “Cecil B. Demented” to big Jerry Bruckheimer productions (including “Pearl Harbor” and “Kangaroo Jack”). He’ll probably never be a huge star, but he might have reached the point where he can no longer do anything as silly as his appearance in this week’s short, “Mullitt.”
The 20-minute comedy from writer/director/star Pat Healy (“The Innkeepers”), which also features the late, great Henry Gibson (“Nashville”), is only occasionally funny. And most of those occasions belong to the extremely over-the-top Shannon, who plays the crack-addicted roommate of Healy’s comic book geek protagonist. He’s introduced with a slapstick fall and is later seen smothering himself in what I believe is cottage cheese. He’s also sporting one of the worst mustaches you’ve ever seen. Shannon’s Phil is like a caricature of an already exaggerated character from a Clowes/Zwigoff movie. Many people will not find it funny at all. The film, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, comes off now like a rip-off of “Spaced,” with its pop culture references and cartoonish style. But it’s fun to see how easily Shannon was stealing scenes nearly a decade before the Academy recognized him as a stand-out in “Revolutionary Road.”
Sadly, he’s not in any of the superhero-costumed scenes, so we must wait for next summer to see him in a true comic book movie. I think you’ll get a kick out of the short anyway. Watch it after the jump and let me know what you think.