“Truth in Journalism” is the second Marvel Comics inspired short film from producer Adi Shankar, following the success of the Thomas Jane Punisher short, “Dirty Laundry”. Whereas the Punisher short had loose ties to the 2004 film, if only because of its lead, this one is something else entirely.
Seemingly set in the late 1980s or very early 90s, the short is in black and white and shot like an 8mm French documentary, complete with French subtitles for its English speaking subject. The subject in question is a disgraced reporter named Eddie, who after a covering a controversial story was fired from the New York newspaper, The Daily Bugle. The filmmakers spend about a week with him in his new job at a less respectable rag. The more time they share with their seemingly amoral subject, the more they begin to question his sanity and their own safety, not to mention the integrity of their film. If you’re at all familiar with Marvel Comics, then you know their fears are well founded.
What really sells the short film is the surprisingly convincing acting from Ryan Kwanten (of “True Blood” fame), who plays Eddie, and director Joe Lynch’s unique approach to a low budget fan film. The set up is a clever parody of a famous Belgian mockumentary, “Man Bites Dog”, in which a few filmmakers followed around a murderer. The filmmakers’ names, Remy and Benoit, are both references to the director and star of that film, respectively. To adjust the premise to fit a comic book character adds a convincing amount of realism to the world and an odd sense of legitimacy to the ridiculous comic elements that accompany it.
Ryan Kwanten does a commendable job making the amoral and physically threatening Eddie come to life. We spend a significant amount of time with him just talking and monologuing to the camera or the filmmakers. A great deal of the short’s success hinges on this character’s believability, and a bad performance would have ruined the entire concept. Though perhaps cast a bit young, Kwanten’s Eddie is forceful, delusional, and oddly charming in his way. He managed to hold my interest for the duration of the short, and I found myself curious as to where the movie was going and how exactly it would get there.
There’s plenty of references to the kind of comic trivia only the Marvel fanboys would immediately recognize, but it’s danced around, not giving too much away as to the famed origin of the character and his relationship to certain vigilantes in the city. They just allow what they assume the reader already knows about this character to tickle their interest and keep them in suspense, just waiting for the inevitable. In the mean time, we get a skewed perspective on journalism and the manipulation of truth and storytelling. It was a controversy regarding a news story that caused Eddie’s disgrace and led to the making of the fictional documentary, but it’s clear early on that whatever it was he did, he certainly deserved.
He sees the media as a way to inform only what he sees as important or necessary. He’s a self-proclaimed “shaper” of truth, having no hesitation to lie and alter facts so that the story becomes what he wants. He victimizes himself and sees the documentary as some chance of redemption on his part in the public eye, even to the point where he, the film’s subject, offers to fund the project. When asked about the integrity of the film and any bias that might create, his answer is plain and simple: “Who cares?” There’s an especially great moment after admitting his indifference to their attempt at honest filmmaking where he raises his glass for, “Cinema!”
As it turns out, time spent with a sociopathic journalist a god deal of fun, making up for some of the budgetary constraints and the minor weaknesses. “Truth in Journalism” is an interesting fan film among fan films, and worth checking out regardless of your association to Marvel and its properties. Honestly, based on some of the creativity at play here, it offers an approach more interesting than even some of the Hollywood-budget counterparts.