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Paralytic (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: David S. Hogan, Darlene Sellers, Angela DiMarco, D'Angelo Midili, Richard Carmen

Written and Directed By: Joey Johnson

The Shot

Paralytic is the thoughtful person’s hitman movie.  Slow burn intensity, a slick screenplay, and killer performances make this flick a sure bet for anyone who can live without big explosions.

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


But you can’t have it all at the same time.

Pairs Well With...


“A beer.  A good one, please.”

...and if you want to drink it as a way to chase Patron, that's up to you.

“It’s the effect we have on the world that matters.  Whether you’re the wine or the beer.”


Most movies get dumber in direct proportion to how slick and convoluted their plots turn out to be.  That’s almost never the writers’ or the filmmakers’ intention, of course, but it tends to happen more often than not.

And then there are movies like Paralytic.  Not only do their slick and convoluted plots turn out to be just as smart as their author or authors intended, but they actually become smarter the more consideration they’re given.

Not an easy trick to pull, that.

It starts as simply as one could imagine: a man walks into a bar.

The man is soon revealed to be Carson Empman (played with no-nonsense cool by David S. Hogan), a hitman who prides himself on clean kills and ultimate discretion.  For the past several years, his primary client has been the Patron of the Chutro drug cartel, but based on the bar chatter, it sounds like that relationship has soured.  Two quick executions later, that suspicion is confirmed.

So, do you think you know what Paralytic is about yet?

If it helps, Carson himself will be happy to offer up an explanation shortly… but can you be sure he’s laying everything out on the table?

I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill the intrigue, and I’m certainly not going to do that.

Paralytic takes one of my all-time favorite niche genres – the hitman movie – and plays with it in very thoughtful and delightful ways.  Physical action is de-emphasized in favor of psychological intensity and intricate thread weaving, like a Mamet-inspired stage play with location shots.  (The locations are fantastic, by the way; beautiful – and beautifully filmed – but not distracting.)  This puts a heavy burden on both the cast and the screenplay, and in every way that matters, they deliver.

Starting with the screenplay first, writer/director Joey Johnson takes the risky strategy of disjointed chronology – switching back and forth amongst three different time periods at will – and makes it work.  Once one comes to the initial realization that time has been jumping from the start, everything flows smoothly.  The calendar may be all over the place, but the narrative is not.  Complications abound – almost too many, though that ceases to matter once one snaps the final piece of the story’s puzzle into place – but rabbit holes are avoided.  Some character fetishes are a bit over the top, but they’re kept mostly in check and ultimately do serve the story.

And most importantly to me as a hitman genre fan, the screenplay for Paralytic takes a familiar narrative and makes it into something fresh.  (And I do love the media manipulation angle, as well.  It adds a very a nice bit of garnish to the proceedings.)

Looking at the cast of Paralytic, there’s nothing but gold here from the first name to the last.  David S. Hogan gives a killer performance as Carson, radiating intensity even while he does something as mundane as ask for a beer.  He also brings leading man charisma to an antiheroic character who doesn’t allow for the crutch of humor, sarcastic or otherwise, and that is no mean feat.  Also on the highlight reel is Darlene Sellers, who brings a perfectly measured tablespoon of world weariness to her role as the film’s morally upstanding center: a troubled sheriff’s deputy who carries her own flask (but waits to pull from it until she’s off duty… probably).  And then there’s D’Angelo Midili as the world’s creepiest man, Angela DiMarco as the modern femme fatale, Richard Carmen as the cordial cartel coordinator… all solid.  Circling back, any minor quibbles that are to be found with the screenplay are rendered inconsequential by the great work of the cast and by the steady hand of the director.  (You know; they guy who wrote said screenplay.)

With that in mind…

As noted, Paralytic is not your standard hitman flick.  This one’s all about the long, slow burn and doesn’t have any big-explosion-sized punctuation marks.  It’s not about body counts; it’s about a complex puzzle (or two) that isn’t always explicit about the dots being connected.  Paralytic is brain food, not action candy.  Go in with that kind of expectation, and you’ll come out not just satisfied, but impressed.

I certainly did.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, May, 2016

More From The Bar! | The Mechanic | Get Carter | The Equalizer | The Device |

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