Thursday, September 28, 2023

[Empty] Head Count

Periodically, local jurisdictions wanting to get tough on crime have tried to reinstate chain gangs, until the professional criminal advocacy groups threaten to sue. Admittedly, this penal practice looks pretty dangerous when an unseen wild animal (straying far outside its natural habitat) starts feasting on the line. However, our anti-hero takes the opportunity to escape, leaving his chain-mates to their fate (they were fine, mostly), in Ben & Jacob Burghart’s Head Count, which releases tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

Technically, Deputy Sawyer saved Kat’s life. He repaid him by stealing his police cruiser. He still has the leg iron, minus the chain, but folks don’t seem to notice or care much around the Kansas-Missouri border. In fact, he rewards the friendly encouragement of one old timer by stealing his pick-up, which conveniently comes with a revolver. The Burgharts will make a big show out of the running total of bullets he has chambered. Keep in mind, reloading is always an option.

Turns out Kat is a terrible fugitive. He keeps hanging around his brother and his ex-girlfriend, Jo much to the annoyance of her current man. Even dumb old Deputy Sawyer can find Kat, but instead of arresting him, he forces him to steal from an illegal gun dealer.

Frankly, the most memorable work in
Head Count, which really ought to be called “Bullet Count,” comes from Ryan Kwanten as Sawyer, which is saying something. Unfortunately, it is almost immediately evident Aaron Jakubenko cannot carry this film, partly because Kat is such a dull and unappealing character. There is a late, third act attempt to bolster sympathy for him, but it still involves foolish behavior and stupid choices.

The Burgharts and co-screenwriter Josh Doke are too focused on their self-conscious visual gimmicks, at the expense of solid story and character development. It just gets to be a chore sitting through Kat’s not-as-darkly-funny-as-they-hope misadventures. Nobody comes across like a realistic character, not even Kat’s supposedly grounded brother—and nobody has much depth either.

As a result, there is no reason to care about anything that happens in
Head Count. It is mostly just a big nothing. Not recommended, Head Count releases today on VOD and select theaters (like the Icon Cinema in Colorado Springs).