Cinema Review: Project X

DIR: Nima Nourizadeh • WRI: Michael Bacall, Matt Drake • PRO: Todd
Phillips • DOP: Ken Seng • ED: Jeff Groth • DES: Bill Brzeski • Cast: Thomas
Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown

Having started with 1992’s Man Bites Dog and 1998’s The Last
Broadcast, the faux documentary/found footage technique suddenly
became an unprecedented phenomenon during the autumn of 1999 when the
Daniel Myrick/Eduardo Sanchez directed, The Blair Witch Project, was
unleashed on the movie going public. With a final budget of between
$500,000 and $750,000 dollars, Blair Witch ending up grossing just
under $250 million, a quite extraordinary return on the young
filmmakers’ investment.

Since then, the found footage motif has been explored on countless
occasions, and though it has been done effectively in the intervening
years (Cloverfield, REC & REC 2 being obvious examples), there has
been a sense in recent times that this particular form of movie making
has run its course.

Which isn’t to say that it’s not possible that new life can be
injected into this now all too familiar genre. For instance, last year
we had the fantastic Troll Hunter, a Norwegian fantasy film directed
by Andre Ovredal about a group of students who get more than they
bargained for when they attempt to capture the actions of a supposed
bear poacher on camera.

Also, in recent weeks, we had Chronicle, an ambitious spin on the
Superman mythology with a script by Max ‘Son Of John’ Landis, though
that was an example of a film that would have worked just as well
without the use of the found footage gimmick. However, it was
nevertheless a worthy addition to the mockumentary stable which,
despite its best efforts to breathe fresh impetus into the genre,
Project X sadly isn’t.

The story of Project X revolves around three friends – Thomas, Costa
and J.B. – who plan to throw the ultimate party, so that they can make
a name for themselves. However, as the guests keep arriving, the party
descends into total chaos. As you can see the plot for Nima
Nourizadeh’s film is threadbare to put it lightly, and that is the
first of its problems.

Another problem that it faces comes in the form of Todd Phillips as
the film’s producer. Phillips, who has made some interesting films in
the past such as Old School, Starsky & Hutch and Due Date, has enjoyed
enormous box-office success in the past few years with The Hangover,
and also its sequel, The Hangover Part II, which suffered artistically
from the fact that it was basically a reprise of the original film,
only with the gags having worn off dramatically.

This is a claim that can also be labelled against Project X because,
even though the set-pieces and escapades on screen become even more
outrageous as the film moves on, there is a terrible sense throughout
that we have seen this all before.

However, the film does have some saving graces. Firstly, at 88 minutes
it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and doesn’t overly drag at any stage.
It also serves as a decent indicator for the talents of Nourizadeh,
who has a strong background in music videos and commercials. The
producers should also be commended for hiring inexperienced young
actors in the lead and supporting roles rather than the typical
seasoned stars of the high school/frat pack genre, who you would
normally associate with films of this nature, and they by and large
acquit themselves rather well.

Ultimately though, Project X (despite a few bellylaughs) isn’t nearly
as funny or engaging as it needs to be, and though Nourizadeh and his
Cinematographer Ken Seng do have a keen eye for detail, they will
probably go on to display it more fully in better films than this.

Daire Walsh

Rated 18 (see IFCO website for details)
Project X is released on 2nd March 2012

Project X   – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZriNfKNEdU

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