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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
It was July, 2009, and I was just moseying around the San Diego Comic-Con, looking for a story. There are an awful lot of stories at Comic-Con, not all of them published. I spotted a mysterious booth. Mysterious because I'd passed by it a few times now and it was roped and closed off. Odd behavior when people are spending the kind of prices per space that Comic-Con charges. I asked about and someone inside popped their head out, smiled and waited for me to introduce myself. I did and, being as I run this website and do my thing, I was allowed into the booth where a man named Laurent and his business associate, Philippe, had a high definition, wide screen TV (one of the huge ones) set up.
I said something to the effect of "Oh, oh... you have a movie." I didn't want to crap up my day getting trapped into watching someone's hour and a half (or Cthulhu forbid LONGER) movie.
I'd been through these kinds of scenes at conventions before. The folks who made their movie are very proud of it, but even the best weren't worth the time I wasted watching them at a Convention that I traveled many miles to attend and spent great slabs of money to be there and which will only exist for a few precious days.
I'm sure I tried to exit, saying something along the lines of, "How about you send me a screener DVD?"
Writer, Director, and Producer, Laurent Touil-Tartour - he of the outrageous French accent - told me that his movie was broken down into 15 episodes and each one was only about 5 minutes. Oh. Well I could spare five minutes then and make a graceful exit. After an intriguing first five, I was willing to watch the second episode. You know, just to see what happened next. After the second episode, I asked to see the third. 15 minutes should give me a good arc, right?
After the fourth episode I was completely hooked. I HAD to see it all! And after I did? I HAD to go and tell all of my writer friends to come check out this guy's booth! They had to see this. They had to know about it.
THIS is one of the reasons we come to Comic-Con, to discover awesome work like URBAN WOLF!
I got home and I wrote about the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con saying, "Every Comic-Con has its one dark horse, some indie, just below the radar, that makes a splash. Usually it is a comic title, but this year I'm putting my money on a new webseries called URBAN WOLF. A Science Fiction Mystery Thriller written, directed, and produced by Laurent Touil Tartour..."
A man arrives at an airport by plane. As he walks toward the entry gate, he is so lost in his own thoughts he inadvertently bumps into other passengers.
Alone in the men's room, he takes a handful of prescription pills, splashes water on his face, and gives himself a long slow stare in the mirror. Then he hears an odd noise in the otherwise empty rest room.
Looking around, he notices a security camera hanging from the ceiling and pointing right at him. Perplexed, he moves a bit. The camera remains motionless for just a second, then making the odd noise, moves to point at him again. The man moves again and this time the camera tracks him. Irked at the invasiveness, the man takes one of his wet paper towels and throws it over the camera lens. The camera moves back and forth, attempting to shake off the wet towel, but the cover stays.
What the man doesn't realize is that there is a government employee on the other side of that camera.
The government worker (Jean-Guillaume Le Dantec) is cloistered in his dark little room where he spends his dull days staring at monitors feeding him images from the airport and nearby surrounding area. The unknown man's insignificant act of rebellion catches the government worker's attention and he decides to investigate the nervous stranger.
The government worker runs the man's face through his recognition software and gets a fairly good match on the man.
As the man leaves the airport, he passes through a set of doors where the worker can scan him and here he finds the man's cellphone and ID. He scans the magnetic strip on the ID card and hacks the cellphone. Now he has a name, Justin Case (Vincent Sze: AN DOU).
When the worker runs the name and cellphone number through the government database, he gets a positive ID on the stranger. The man has no criminal record, nothing bad, but what he has done is unwittingly capture attention.
It's here that the worker decides to spice up his day with a little fun.
Justin Case has just become the object of an unseen person's fun.
The government worker remains mysterious as the supreme object of paranoia. We never get a full look at his face and in fact, the macro close-ups of parts of his face, the frown of his mouth, the extreme close-up of his eyes, gives him an almost Force of Nature persona: A dungeon master setting up the various challenges that Justin must play through to keep his life.
Sliced into nearly 15 separate 5 minutes bites, each episode is a different adventure for Justin. Justin is in the city for a reason. He has an appointment with a man. The government worker on the other hand, becomes increasingly more interested in playing a video game using a real human being.
As the story progresses, we see a worker who is too adept at this game. He's done this to other people. Sequestered all alone in his tiny little room, he is also faceless to his prey and can act and injure without consequence: a perfect job for a murderer. It takes very little for the government worker to enter other city systems where he doesn't belong and temporarily control various aspects of the city from traffic lights to elevators. For Justin, the stakes quickly grow from an annoyance to life or death.
The tension from episode to episode is incredible and Laurent just keeps ramping it up. Unlike other movies of this type, most notably movies like THE BOURNE IDENTITY, URBAN WOLF doesn't feature a nearly superhuman man with the kind of extraordinary advanced martial arts training that would bring a Shaolin Head Priest to his knees in deference. Justin is just a regular guy.
There's a certain reality to it all because Justin is a man who can be trapped and even threatened by mundane things: Things we encounter every day. Things that, under the control of the wrong person, could get us killed. Imagine for example, someone playing a game with the crosswalk or traffic lights and giving everyone the green signal at the same time. Imagine the machines of an entire city silently turning against only you - for just that brief moment of danger - while the other citizens never notice.
Of course, with a name like Justin Case as our protagonist, it's obvious that there is a stream of humor running through all of the threat, otherwise it'd be an unending slog of one five minute thing after the next. Laurent wisely avoided having the humor come on too strong or for too long or worse, mocking the story.
With its beautiful settings (shot in Paris, France), excellent cinematography, and super tight, witty action, this could very well define the future of online cinema. I'm not kidding! URBAN WOLF is a Turbo Thrust Cat and Mouse Thriller with a V8 engine! As of this writing, URBAN WOLF will premiere on Crackle.com. If you have a hi-speed broadband connection, there is no reason not to see it!
5 Shriek Girls.
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