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Short Film Review: Saloon


Saloon is a dark western actioner from writer-director Dayakar Padayachee, produced by Simon Ratcliffe and Pelisha Somiah. Starring Kwenzo Ngcobo as a tough hitman, the short film explores one wild night as he follows up a bit of business with a drink at a nearby saloon. Five Fingers for Marseilles recently captured the world's imagination with an African western playing out against the picturesque Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape. Taking a similar edge and multi-cultural approach, Saloon is a more contemporary take on the Wild West, shot in Zulu against a dystopian futuristic South Africa.

Saloon Short Film

The short film is not short on style, using neon lights and plenty of swagger to capture a dark, moody back alley and sleazy bar scenario. Westerns are famous for their tense bar scenes and stand-offs, which is where Saloon takes aim, unpacking a lone gunslinger's mysterious and sacred mission. Ngcobo grapples with a character loosely modeled on the likes of Keanu Reeves and Clint Eastwood, operating with a sly, smooth and devil-may-care demeanor. Entering a dangerous situation with enemies around him, he stumbles onto his next hit only to draw his weapon and summon up a blaze of enemies.

Being a short film, Saloon does feel like an excerpt from a larger work. The story airdrops audiences in the deep end, feeding bits of the character's intention through his whirlwind action, cold attitude and destiny-orientated dialogue. Being geared around action there isn't all that much time for exposition and unfortunately the closing credits roll just as the film gets started. The rock 'n roll soundtrack energises things as the mood and lashings of style compel and intrigue. It's difficult to convey character in such a short space of time, which is why Saloon is fleeting.

Saloon Short Film

The set up works as it ends on an ellipsis but this Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid style climax is equally anti-climactic given the film's short lifespan. While gritty and dripping in mood and style, it's also insubstantial and momentary. Saloon shows great promise, building a world, displaying panache and carrying a consistent tone. As a taster it leaves you wanting more but doesn't feel like a complete expression of its potent story and brooding characters.