How many agents are too many agents?
Within the diverse film landscape of today, there seems to be annoyingly many action comedies that follow the same narrative structures, tones, and character motives. Many of them usually fail to find balance between the action and the comedy. That is, fail to make us laugh and entertain us with creative action scenes. For this reason Eric Player’s crime farce “UndercoverUP” feels like a fresh breeze in the pool of action comedy flops. A story that follows an undercover agent to the dark and raw world of international crime to solve a shady deal plays with crime movie conventions more creatively than many contemporary action comedies.
The crime comedy starts with a too familiar crime series montage of a busy urban city only to gradually reveal its true intensions. However, this clever build-up sets the tone of beginning and provides a structure for the views expectations. Namely, the genre- and topic-based assumptions the movie starts to play with in order to establish comedy and satire. We see a professional looking agent entering a shady warehouse, where he meets his criminal acquaintances. As he walks in, the suspicious looking company monitors his every step. A scene that you probably have witnessed too many times. Will he blow his cover? Who will shoot whom? What are the stakes? Will the Russian criminal, who will soon bring in the merchandise, speak with an awfully stereotypical accent? And so on. The misleadingly arranged storyline brings these assumptions to the surface to employ them into a plot twist that will transform the whole register of the film to a much more funnier and interesting one. What is that twist? You need to see it by yourself.
In addition to the well-structured narrative, the short film succeeds in simple but effective character building. Within the limits of the short runtime, the film manages to introduce enough details of the characters for them to live and breathe. The characters are fun, quirky and idiosyncratic, while the great chemistry between them provides a lucrative base for comedy. Although the dialogue lacks rhythm a bit, its silliness creates a suitable vibe for the story. But what is important, the actors seem to have fun with their roles.
The keyword “simple but effective” is also relevant for the rather traditional cinematography and editing, which leaves room for the fun screenplay and uncommon characters to shine. The visuals create this quite typical, but still fitting urban milieu in which the events. Shadowy night, industrial warehouse, a lot of greenish and bluish tones – familiar, but effective, as the “UndercoverUP” twists the conventions with humor and wit in order to achieve something surprising and fresh.
Despite some technological errors across the film, “UndercoverUP” manages to entertain as well as execute its farcical intentions. The film mocks many tired tropes of comedy action movies and crime dramas, while giving an absurdly unreal or maybe ridiculously palpable take on the work of covert agents. We will never know unless we “UndercoverUP” ourselves.