A Single Shot begins in the predawn hours of Appalachia as John Moon (Sam Rockwell), a hunter by necessity, emerges from his backwoods trailer in search of breakfast. Worried he is going to lose the deer he is tracking, John hastily shoots through the mist and trees accidentally hitting a teenage girl squatting in an abandoned shipping container nearby. Making his first poor decision by choosing to cover-up the death, John finds a large sum of cash amid the girl’s personal belongings which does two thing: 1. sets off a chain of events involving ruthless criminals and shifty lawyers, and 2. inadvertently creates an allegory for the quality of the entire film.
On the rare occasion Sam Rockwell gets the opportunity to play a role other than Sam Rockwell, he never disappoints and this film is no exception. In fact, it is Rockwell’s best performance since Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and the film is absolutely gorgeous looking. But the problem with A Single Shot is its overreach. John has moral conflicts with his decision to cover-up an accident, he is trying to save his failing marriage to Moira (Kelly Reilly), dealing with the criminals who claim ownership of the money, coping with losing the family farm, and trying to discover the motivations of small-town lawyer Pitt (William H. Macy). In an already tired storyline, A Single Shot seems to make an effort to cover every cliché in the book rather than focus on one of these stories. With a strong supporting actor in each of them, each story has the potential to stand on its own--particularly the scenes involving John and his old friend Simon (Jeffrey Wright), who seems to have fully embraced the free-wheeling rebel lifestyle.
There is a moment in A Single Shot when Pitt, with a wink and a nod, tells John, “Most problems aren’t as bad as they seem… The thing is, you have to deal with them before you get backed into corners.” This sage advice is sadly ignored by the filmmakers who have ended up creating a movie that is merely an “ok” way to pass your time rather than something memorable and meaningful. Instead of exercising restraint and waiting for the perfect shot, the filmmakers end up firing in the fog hoping to hit a target. They didn’t hit a teenage girl, but they didn’t hit a deer either.
Now available on Amazon Instant Video. In theaters September 30.