I could’ve made this film. If I had access to a bald ozzie bloke. And my own video camera. But that’s about all you’d need to recreate it. In an age of $200m budgets, The Magician is a breath of fresh air. Shot on a shoddy camera, with bad sound, no lighting and shaky footage when on foot, this film is the essence of cheapness. And it shows you don’t need mega bucks to make a good piece of film.
The Magician is a ‘documentary’ by a ‘film student’ about Ray the hitman. It centres on one client in particular, and flitters around interviews with Ray about his job and circumstances. To take this view on an already milked concept (see Leon, Assassin, Gross Point Blank, etc etc) is a smart move. Hitmen are generally portrayed as cool dudes, silent hunters, sporting black jackets and slow-mo super kick ass moves. In The Magician you get to see one eating a McDonalds with a glob of mayo on his face.
Ray (Scott Ryan - also the writer and director, the greedy munchkin) is the star of the show. His weird rectangular teeth hide a violent streak that’s often blackly amusing. Though his occupation is a tad morally wrong, we get to see a softer side to him. Well, occasionally soft. The banter between Ray and Max, the documentary maker, is fantastic. Acted so naturally, it’s difficult to tell whether their conversations are scripted or ad-libbed, but the great moral debates they hold (how much money would it take to eat your own shit?) are probably the highlight of this film.
With an original take on the hitman genre and likeable characters, it’s all the more disappointing that The Magician flops at the finale. Themes and ideas that are touched on should have been bulked up so much more. I wanted to know more about Ray, I wanted to see his friendship increase with Max, and I wanted to see that relationship tested by Ray’s occupation. All of this was there, very fleetingly, but it never really took off. If it had, then the emotional impact would have been substantial. As it was, I was left feeling a little flat and mostly disappointed – there was a lot of promise here, and it’s a great shame that it lost the ‘wow’ factor.
The Magician gets 7/10. On the new CF scale (see post ‘The New CF Scale’) it starts at ‘0’, and is awarded one CF point for having such a small budget, and for featuring believable, funny dialogue. It therefore makes CF 1.