The Shoot — co-written, co-directed, and co-starring husband-and-wife team John Adams and Toby Poser — is a shaggy, aimless thriller seriously lacking in purpose. Outside of Adams and Poser’s personal desire to make a film, it’s just not clear why this movie was made. And, other than the novelty of seeing veteran voice actor John DiMaggio (the man behind Bender from “Futurama” and Jake the Dog from “Adventure Time,” among many others) in the flesh, it’s hard to find a reason to recommend it.
The film attempts to pull off a blackly comic desert noir in the vein of John Dahl’s Red Rock West, but without any of that film’s suspense or moral intrigue. The story here is familiar. A couple of go-nowhere rock musicians, Tommy (John Adams) and Dougie (Sam Rodd) owe money to the wrong people. So, in a desperate bid to pay back their loan shark, they hatch an ill-conceived plan to rob a desert photo shoot that Tommy’s wife, Maddy (Toby Poser), is working. The heist does not go as planned. Tommy and Dougie bring along real guns and, predictably, things get violent. The crew disperses into the harsh desert landscape, while Tommy and Dougie try to find a way out of the mess they’ve made.
The story primarily plays out in a series of rambling, semi-comic scenes that sap any tension the film might have accrued. This wouldn’t be so bad if the scenes generated any laughs, but unfortunately the film never establishes a comedic point of view. Setting the harshness of the violence and the desert against the vacuousness of the fashion and rock worlds presents a lot of potential for comedic contrasts, but The Shoot never maximizes on any of them. Nor does the movie develop characters with enough personality to keep us interested. Everyone is a little too cartoonish to take seriously but not out-sized enough to be funny.
Adams and Poser do utilize the desert location effectively, and they manage to create at least one indelible image: a cheap pink unicorn mask spattered with blood baking in the sun. But ultimately what we’re left with is a comedy with no laughs, a thriller with no thrills. It’s like a sketch without any shading or — to use a metaphor closer to the movie’s heart — a song with only verses. Adams and Poser would have done well to take the advice of one of their own characters: “Don’t bore us; get to the chorus.”