"Weapons" delves into nearsighted revenge
January 24, 2007
The story of "Weapons" begins the weekend Reggie, played by Nick Cannon (Drumline), decides he will attempt to exact revenge for his sister’s black eye.
However, Reggie doesn’t necessarily know whom to blame. The camera inhabits various points of view to account for the events that take place over the heated weekend, revealing torched loyalties, lies, a love triangle and brutal youth killings. The truth of the matter is not cut and dry, leaving no one beyond reproach — not even Reggie’s sister.
In a video interview for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Adam Bhala Lough explains how he came to chose to reveal the story of teenage revenge through a non-linear deconstruction of events, splicing the characters’ different perspectives of a day into a whole.
"I wanted it to feel like it was organic, in the way that you would tell your friend a story about some really messed up thing that happened," Lough says. "You don’t necessarily tell it in order.
"I think that’s what makes a movie the most successful, when your view point is not even considered," he continued. "It’s more [the audience’s] they’ve taken what they want out of the movie Their answer to what the movie is about is far more important to what mine is."
Though "Weapons" is a decidedly unglamorous tale set in a place Lough calls "Generica," a conflation of the words "generic" and "America," Lough’s script attracted auditions from many successful and marketable young men, including Riley Smith, whose resume includes many roles that cast him as the heartthrob in television series like "7th Heaven" and the film "New York Minute" with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
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The actors who were most interested, it seemed, were not exactly the kind of actors Lough had in mind, according to Smith.
"It took a lot of coaxing with the director, because Adam typically doesn’t want to go with too many mainstream actors," Smith said. "He likes to go against the grain and go with people who aren’t so commercial and marketable."
To convince Lough, Smith says he tempered what he calls his "smile-and-look-good" appeal for the audition.
"I just basically went in and was like: listen, I’ll do whatever it takes to get the role. I know who this guy is and I want to do it like this," he recalls. "I begged my agent and said: you know, get me a little more time, I’m going in as a bully, as the character. I went in, I shaved my head. I put on clothes I thought the guy would wear and re-did it. Then I think he saw it."
But "Weapons" appealed to Smith not only because he knew no one was going to ask him to look pretty, but because the story itself hit close to home.
"The minute I saw it, I immediately wanted to do it, because I come from a small town in Iowa that’s kind of an older, middle-of-the-track town that’s blue collar and so I knew a lot of these people in the script, these guys that have never left Iowa that basically hang out and go about their nine-to-five," he says. "I grew up with those guys. I could have very well been one of those guys, if I hadn’t gotten out of the town."
Smith says for his "Weapons" character, Jason, he adopted the idiosyncrasies of one of his good friends from home, a 25-year-old who once reigned as best-looking and star athlete in high school, then continued to stay in the town he grew up in after graduation, working construction and starting a family.
"My character was that kid," he explains. "He was the star basketball player and the good-looking guy in my high school and I think you can still kind of see it in my character, but he’s still pretty rough around the edges. He’s got the big gold chains and the big fake diamond earrings that he probably bought at a quarter machine in the mall. He’s got tattoos of his mom and sisters’ names all over him, and shaved head and he kind of thinks he’s a homie."
To become "Jason," Smith says he changed his appearance so much that his agent didn’t recognize him for 45 minutes of the film.
"For me, most of my work has been the cliché guy that you have to look a certain way and it’s got to be appealing for the audience and a lot of times it’s the ‘smile-and-look-good’ thing and I really wanted to get away from that," he explained.
While Smith says his hometown in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was not quite as violent as Lough’s "Generica" it does expose some truth about youth culture.
"It wasn’t this violent, but to a degree, it was we had drunk-driving deaths and fights and drugs," he recalls. "When you’re in middle-America and you have nothing else to do on a random weekend, usually, you’ll find trouble."
He hopes, at some level, audiences will leave with an awareness that will help them take a step back and think about the violence, he says.
"The point of the film is that all of the kids shoot first and ask questions later, and because of that, a lot of people end up being seriously injured or killed and when you take a look at the story through each character’s eyes, you start to realize no one was really right or wrong, it was basically a lack of communication," he says. "A lot of people who watch this are going to have already gone through adolescence and probably look back and be able to associate this with something or somebody they know back home. But I also want the younger kids to watch it and be scared, be moved, be disturbed. I hope this film makes them think."
The next screening of "Weapons" is tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 24 at the Park City Racquet Club.