What immediately hits you when you first sit down and watch Board to Death is how well it has nailed the noir atmosphere. In black and white a smoking and possibly dangerous dame plays mind games with her volatile husband. She spells out the names of people he knows on a scrabble board that lies between them. He thinks they are men she has been sleeping with. She refuses to confirm or deny those thoughts. As the two of them battle their marriage out over a board game they make use of most of the standard genre techniques such as closeups and voice-over narration to weave a stylish and intriguing story of betrayal and jealousy. But it never feels tired or outdated, instead it gives the genre some welcome energy and fun.
Our lead Joshua Expósito does a really good job here (particularly with the narration) as he lends the role both some tangible menace and emotion, but also an enjoyable lightheartedness when carrying out acts of violence. And it’s the violence here which helps to make the film as interesting as it is because we can never be sure whether the husband’s acts of bloody revenge are occurring solely in his head or not. The film plays with shifts in reality on several occasions and this inventive experimentation goes really well with the serious noir tone. Unfortunately a couple of the supporting characters do let the short down a little but when you have something that’s as refreshing as this, that’s coupled with two fun turns by its Expósito and Ashford, you can forgive its small errors.
What is the film’s greatest strength? The atmosphere it is able to create.
Its greatest weakness? Some of the supporting cast let it down.
Would I see it again? Yes, I enjoyed the film’s stylistic touches and I would seek it out in the future.
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