Richard Linklater's Tape
doesn't announce itself as a Dogme movie, but it might very well qualify. Acted out in real time in a single setting--a cramped, grimy motel room--with no music score, a cast of just three and shot on grainy digital video, it marks a further step back to basics for Linklater after the woeful miscalculation of his gangster period drama The Newton Boys
(1998). It's set in Lansing, Michigan, hometown of petty drug-dealer and part-time firefighter Vince (Ethan Hawke), who's come back for the screening, in Lansing's film festival, of the debut feature of his old school friend Johnny (Robert Sean Leonard), now an indie filmmaker. At least, that's Vince's ostensible reason--but it turns out he's got a hidden agenda that involves Amy (Uma Thurman), the girl they both fancied in high-school, and now the local assistant DA.
Tape was adapted from a stage play (by Stephen Belber, who also scripted) and often feels like it, with characters announcing their motivations and reactions in grandstanding, tell-don't-show speeches. The camerawork tends to the tricky, too--tilted angles and way too many whip-pans during dialogue sequences--as if Linklater was worried his single set might get visually boring. But the tight, twisty plotting, compact running time and intense performances keep the film absorbing. Hawke and Leonard's mutual lacerations carry a rancid sense of resentments banked up and brooded on for years, while Thurman's Amy, arriving halfway through the action, visibly relishes setting both men by the ears. As a meditation on the relativity of truth Tape may not be in the Rashomon class, but it shows Linklater doing what he does best, making pungent use of minimal resources.
On the DVD: Tape offers no extras on disc, just the trailer. Production-value splendour was obviously never on the menu here, but the 2.0 Dolby Digital sound and 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer do the original no disservice. --Philip Kemp
Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard star in Richard Linklater's claustrophic drama, shot on digital video in a single motel room. Two old high school friends, filmmaker Johnny (Leonard) and drug dealer Vince (Hawke), meet for the first time in years and discuss their past lives and present situations. When the conversation turns to Johnny's relationship with Amy (Thurman), an ex-girlfriend of Vince's who still lives nearby, Vince pushes Johnny into confessing that he once raped her. Vince then reveals that he has videotaped the confession and invited Amy to join them.