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Los Angeles Film Festival 2014: 'Man From Reno' review

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Having its World Premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sunday was Dave Boyle’s film noir, “Man From Reno.” Competing in the Best Narrative category, “Man From Reno” is a thoughtfully constructed mystery with an international cast and fine tech credits. With the right handling, this film could find success on the specialty market.

Opening on headlights piercing through deep fog, Sheriff Paul Del Moral (character actor Pepe Serna) happens upon an abandoned car before hitting a lone Japanese man in the middle of the road. The Sheriff takes the man to the hospital, but before he can be questioned, he disappears. The next day a dead man is found in a pond. Could there be a connection?

The film jumps to San Francisco for the press tour of popular Japanese writer Aki Akahori (an excellent Ayako Fujitani), who has penned the “Inspector Takabe” series. Aki is in a mid-career crisis – she’s tired of the grind of Inspector Takabe novels and wants to drop out of the public’s view. Hiding out at the boutique Hotel Majestic in the Bay Area, Aki opens herself up to a fling with handsome and mysterious fellow traveler Akira Suzuki (Japanese star Kazuki Kitamura).

Things become strange when Akira disappears too. Could the disappearances be related? With a mind targeted for mysteries, Aki begins investigating. Soon Aki and the Sheriff cross paths, and the film gears up a notch as the protagonists follow the sinister clues.

Screenwriter Boyle, along with co-writers Joel Clark and Michael Lerman put together a smart, engrossing mystery in the true film noir tradition. Also adding to the overall success of the film is the talented production team. Cinematographer Richard Wong paints a mysterious mood piece through his classic noir framing and naturalistic lighting. Wong explains in the film’s production notes that the ambitious shooting schedule of 24 days in 3 cities was achieved with the new Sony F5 camera fitted with the ND filter. The high-speed camera offered a wide latitude, which “let the natural light do the work.”

Of equal note is Micah Dahl Anderson’s inspired score and Katy Porter’s production design.

“Man From Reno” is an engrossing picture and a strong contender for Best Narrative in a crowded category of impressively strong films. Co-writer and director Dave Boyle definitely hits the right notes with his film, and he’s one to track in the years to come.

For upcoming screenings at the Los Angeles Film Festival, check the LAFF website.

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