Death Waits for No Man is an edgy and claustrophobic drama thriller from up-and-coming writer-director Armin Siljkovic, starring Angelique Pretorius, Bradley Snedeker and Corey Rieger. Set almost exclusively in the apartment of a neon art collector on Veteran’s Day, this stylish thriller has a sleazy edge as a series of power plays ensue following a dangerous proposition. A lone drifter by the name of Uzal enters a bar in the hopes of hitching a ride. However, after an altercation, he soon finds himself in the debt of Lily, a beautiful woman who invites him back to her place to patch him up. It is here that she attempts to seduce him in the hopes that he will kill her abusive husband and war veteran, Sinclair.
Siljkovic has created a drama thriller that recalls The Guest in terms of its ’80s panache and swagger. Instead of a lean and mean Dan Stevens, we have Bradley Snedeker, whose deep, soulful voice and restrained demeanour make him seem like a young Liam Neeson. Playing a guest with his own secrets as Uzal in Death Waits for No Man, he finds himself trapped in a twisted power game between an unstable Francophile wife whose difficult upbringing has had adverse affects on her and a husband whose three tours of duty have left him rattled in a dead-end job with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Angelique Pretorius plays the manipulative and paradoxical seductress, Lily, essentially fusing Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in an honest, fine-tuned performance. Her bright eyes, victim mentality and Parisian flights of fancy give her a childlike innocence, which is dashed by her darker, tormented side and ulterior motives. Corey Rieger has a sinister edge behind his dark eyes and injects a disconnectedness to his hopped up take on a disillusioned Norman Bates style war veteran. While the part could have benefited from casting a slightly older actor with a chunkier frame, Rieger makes Sinclair a worthy adversary and an ever-present threat.
“Neon is the colour of the night.”
The apartment has been lit with neon lights turning each room a different colour. This helps keep the visuals fresh and the single location more tolerable as the colour spectrum provides a sleazy and surreal feel to the drama. It’s an exercise in mood as each scene has its own colour palette, taking a page from David Lynch, yet keeping one foot on the ground. Siljkovic has a poetic temperament in terms of the ongoing symbolism at play, drawing our attention to specific props, but tends towards realism and a straightforward narrative. While visually striking with a definite cinematographic formula, the old school atmosphere is further accentuated by the driving synth music, which is reminiscent of John Carpenter horror films. These distinct stylistic elements combine to give Death Waits for No Man a cool, sleazy vibration in the vein of Nicolas Winding Refn.
While the sleazy mood, tense atmosphere and visual styling elevate this low-budget drama thriller in a smart and resourceful way, it operates within an artificial video game world. The screenplay cleverly manoeuvres its way with well orchestrated dramatic turns as each of the three leads find themselves on top of the pile. However, without taking the time to nurture enough empathy and keeping the characters in the stranger danger zone, the close-ups create a false sense of intimacy. While the dialogue heightens the tension and drives the story, it seems more provocative than substantial without adding the necessary depth of character. This coupled with the fixed sound and visual elements create a superficial undertone much like the neon glow.
Death Waits for No Man is a great example of how to get the most out of your resources when it comes to indie film-making. While the punchy drama thriller checks in above its weight and composes stylish visuals, tense atmosphere, a sleazy mood and a throwback soundtrack, it’s restrained by its fuzzy characterisation, out-of-reach characters and style-over-substance agenda. Despite good intentions and the best efforts of a promising cast, Death Waits for No Man struggles to form a real emotional connection and dulls its full potential in the process. It’s a noble effort and makes a fine showcase of the talent involved, but could have been so much more.
The bottom line: Bold