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One Buck answers the age-old question: What if you made a film that was composed entirely of cliches? The opening scenes of this unpleasant Cajun noir introduce the viewer to Detective Maggio, a grizzled, square-jawed, middle-aged homicide cop who, while grieving over his dead wife and unborn child, has developed an addiction to booze, pills, and coke. Do you think the case he’s working on might redeem him? To quote Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation., “See every cop movie ever made for other examples of this.”
Set in the Louisiana bayou, One Buck is clearly trying to capture some of the sleazy Southern appeal of the first season of True Detective, but there’s nothing true about it, and there’s very little detection. Maggio is on the trail of a serial killer, and we’re on the trail of a single dollar bill that gets passed around between cops, hookers, drug dealers, and victims. The object has no particular meaning, nor does it factor into the plot in a significant way. It’s just a gimmick to hang a story on that would otherwise be entirely unremarkable. It’s not even original, the 1993 indie Twenty Bucks used the exact same device. So did the rom-com Serendipity, sort of.
At least the film is competently shot, and some of the performances are okay. But its stark lack of original ideas and hugely cynical view of humanity is difficult to overcome, not to mention how gleefully it revels in its violence towards women. In One Buck, women are either saints or prostitutes, while its male protagonist is forgiven for all kinds of sins because he has a difficult past. For some viewers, this obvious misogyny will be a deal-breaker. For the rest of you, don’t worry, there are plenty of other reasons to avoid it.
Screens Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Naval Heritage Center.