Awkwardly aiming for a tone landing somewhere between vintage pulp fiction and self-reverential satire, the stagy low-budget crime thriller "3 Holes and a Smoking Gun" is constructed around the admittedly alluring premise of a sought-after movie script that spells doom for everyone it touches.
When a screenplay purportedly penned by New York film student Jack "JFK" Ariamehr (Zuher Khan) captures the attention of his tightly wound, scheming teacher (James Wilder), it sets off a downward spiral swirling with greed and treacherous deception.
But while the script in question, named "Hijacked," has a workable, noir-soaked hook, Scott Fivelson's talky "3 Holes" screenplay proves less intriguing, crammed with enough name-checking and movie-quoting (particularly "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre") to fill several Quentin Tarantino movies.
Director Hilarion Banks dutifully captures all of it in a series of nicely shot extended takes, which would have been fine if the cast had been able to interact in some sort of uniform tone.
Instead, the performances are all either under-modulated (in the case of stiff lead Khan) or annoyingly over-the-top, with the notable exception of Wilder, who imbues his burned-out Hollywood screenwriter character with just the right amount of jaundiced desperation.
"3 Holes and a Smoking Gun."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills. Also on VOD.