A true auteur project, writer-director-producer-star Dan Eberle's neo-noir "Sole Proprietor" is mostly helped — but a little harmed — by having only one strong voice at its center. The movie sports more personality than most low-budget thrillers, yet sometimes devolves into the kind of ponderousness that a collaborator might have second-guessed.
Eberle plays Crowley, a grizzled black-ops agent who intends to use his nest egg to buy his way out of a life of assassination and subterfuge. Alexandra Hellquist plays Sophie, a high-end prostitute who keeps Crowley company — and tries to learn his secrets — while he's waiting for the documents he needs.
Nothing goes according to plan for anyone in "Sole Proprietor." Eberle's plot develops organically, as one favor or demand leads to another, until what should have been a simple disappearance from the grid turns into a series of armed standoffs.
"Sole Proprietor" falls short on the action-suspense side. Eberle's models are moody crime pictures like the films of Jean-Pierre Melville, which means a lot of the drama is internal — played out between men and women who speak in code, and barely raise their voices above a whisper.
But there's a thoughtfulness to this movie that genre fans should appreciate. It's slower and quieter than it needs to be, but "Sole Proprietor" has a distinctive vision of a world populated entirely by ruthless, violent people accustomed to operating under their own rules.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood