Austin Film Festival: Jack's Apocalypse
Armageddon and addiction, Texas-style
By Richard Whittaker,
10:40AM, Sat. Oct. 31, 2015
Desperation. Isolation. Stragglers gathering together in tribal groupings, desperate for succor, willing to trade their teeth for one last drink. Is anyone shocked that the end of the world will start on Sixth Street?
That's the premise of Austin-shot drama Jack's Apocalypse. Jack (David Maldonado, Hellion, the upcoming Trumbo) is the kind of middle-aged tubby schlub that hangs around the worst shot bars, trying to pick up college girls. He has a better excuse than most: He owns one of those drinking establishments. Coked up, lascivious, taking business calls in his boxers, he's the kind of bar owner that would give Bar Rescue's John Tapper a conniption fit. His responsibilities change when his brother turns up, tells him to take his sister-in-law Shannon (Jamie Tisdale, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, The Devil's Candy) and his niece to the family lake house. Oh, and don't drink the water, because the end of the world is imminent.
AFF veteran Will James Moore (Cowboy Smoke) gets the Armageddon component out of the way pretty fast, as he concentrates on Jack's variable ability to deal with the day-to-day struggles of the end of everyday life.
Credibility is stretched at a couple of points, most especially that no one in rural Texas is supposed to notice the fact that a nuclear bomb went off. But this is a character study, not a survival guide. Jack is a fat, sweaty Rick Grimes, a good guy with some bad habits, willing to cut some moral corners when necessary. A fallen small-town politician, he tries to pull himself back into a position of dependability as the old order decays.
There's little doubt this is a Texas-hued movie. There are some subtle digs at the Lone Star instinct to fall into an us-against-them compound mentality, rather than collaborative survival. Music supervisor Mon J constructs a soundscape around the brittle, percussion-driven soundtrack by Sanders Bohlke and Jonathan Ray Case that adds a sense of claustrophobic urgency as the new society collapses into barter and trade.
Ultimately, it's a tale of a man trying to put his life together as the world falls apart, a clash of folksy optimism and an addict's nihilism. It's Maldonado's movie, as he takes a bumpy path to redemption. That said, the resolution, which reinforces that narrative message, will either charm audiences, or leave them feeling more than a little betrayed.