Screening at the 2012 Phoenix Comicon “A Man Called Nereus” premiered during the Thriller portion of the film festival. The story revolves around autistic, clairvoyant savant Nereus, and his adventures across the universe as he escapes from gangsters, is revered as a Mayan God and eventually reveals the ultimate truth. Chained to a table and forced by the Filaria crime family to predict the final score of sporting events, Nereus Baldelli (David Hayes) is kind-of rescued by drug addicted indie film failure Keith Noble (Seth Gandrud) who discovers Nereus’s gift by accident but still plans to exploit Nereus as well, by taking him to Vegas, winning big and paying off his debts. The thugs want Nereus and so do some dirty DEA agents, meth-addicted Emu raising rednecks and a spiritual cult known as “The Mayans.” An odyssey of self discovery, self-destruction and self-mutilation follows as the guest passengers in Keith’s beat up car alternate between philosophers, mystics and murderers.
There are more characters in ‘Nereus’ then I could possibly keep track of, and more twists, turns and just plain taradiddle than I care to even approach in an effort to synopsize. The ensemble, all AZ indie cast was fun to watch, offering some new faces in AZ indie as well as welcoming back a few that I haven’t seen in ages. The breakout roles were powerful and plenty, with notable performances by Gloria Jean Robertson as the wasted, philosophically dominating drug den diva Sammie, and the return of AZ indie veteran Ed Gary as the sadly defeated but still dangerous meth manufacturing patriarch Grandpa Kelly. This film however, clearly belongs to Joe Ricci as Santo. Ricci is creepy, criminal and quite comfortable in his character, delivering an excellent performance as the terrifying-yet-humorous hit man that never seems to die when we need him to. Photography and sound are woefully inconsistent, as the cinematic composition and care of several spectacular scenes appear as though they were shot for a different movie, when sandwiched between sequences that appeared as though the original cinematographer had either taken a nap or gone on vacation. There is a ton-o-fun going on in this story, which works to the detriment of the film. The obvious ‘grindhouse’ indie influence is overwhelming and very unfortunate.
What started out as complex characters in a very entertaining film rapidly disintegrates into absurd inconveniences in just another AZ indie shoot ‘em up. Director Nathan Hill definitely had me at “hello,” but lost me at “I’d like you to meet my friends.” The underlying Christmas/Christ/birth/resurrection theme was compelling and appropriate, and probably the biggest piece of this overly complex puzzle that needs to be grasped firmly in order to remotely keep up. Some excellent scenery and psychedelic drug/dream sequences are plentiful to the point of being overplayed. The iconic Mexican cultural and artistic images are so liberally tossed about that they are quickly squandered, rapidly degenerating into iconoclastic, easy inserts; the resulting homage looking more like a Siqueiros mural re-envisioned by Jackson Pollack. Lengthy philosophical mind trips into multiple dimensions cause the film to come to a screeching halt several times, as just about everybody in this huge cast of characters takes time out to ponder Nietzsche nihilism, Mayan millenniums and postmodernist periphrasis. Hill’s screenplay has certainly done the math, but has somehow forgotten to carry the one.
While mildly entertaining at some points, A Man Called Nereus is an overly long, Quickcrete smoosh of intellectual dreams, tired indie themes and naked girls that scream. Mixed in a 5 gallon bucket and applied liberally with a plastering trowel, the colorful glop never quite seems to gel and the finished work never does become solid.
Final Take – So Nereus, yet so far.