VOD Review - The Far Flung Star

Steve Balderson co-wrote and directed Watch Out (2008) with star Matt Riddlehoover, which was a very crazy exploration of narcissism. This movie, which Balderson also co-wrote and directed, could have been a great companion piece to that. This movie centers on a struggling actress who isn't a narcissist but who seeks the fame and success of narcissists in the spotlight. Yet, the actress is pulled into an international, espionage plot that takes her all the way to Hong Kong.

From what I could tell, the movie seemed like it was actually shot in Hong Kong. Maybe, Balderson faked it, but there are scenes where characters are running through the city streets of Hong Kong that could actually be the real thing. Given that this production feels rushed, the reality of where this movie was shot ultimately didn't matter. The direction is so campy and the writing is so vacuous that any genuineness is sucked out of the venture.

Christa Engelbrecht stars as Diana Dunbar, an actress whose career isn't going as great as she wants it to be. She's not a star. She's not getting any attention or appreciation, and she's somewhat depressed or bored with her life. She has no boyfriend or partner. Her only relationship is with her gay agent Archie, played by Gaetano Jones.

Eric Tedder plays Ian, the brother of Diana who comes to her in a panic. Ian tells Diana his boyfriend, Johnny, played by Benjamin Lutz (Bite Marks and The Men Next Door), has been killed and sent her a post card, which has a clue as to why he was killed. After Johnny's killer or killers follow Ian to Diana's place and threaten both of them, they take the post card, which points to a treasure hunt in Hong Kong, and try to unravel the mystery.

John Werskey (Bite Marks and The Love Patient) co-stars as Alex, an American in Hong Kong who falls in love with Diana when they run into each other during a chase to escape Johnny's potential killer or killers. Alex is the heir to the Trachtenberg family fortune, but his reasons for being in Hong Kong is not made all that clear.

The direction is campy almost intentionally so, except there's an odd contrast that Balderson doesn't distinguish fully. Diana is in a really horribly done, horror film called "Hell Lake." Its poor quality is meant to be mocked in this movie. However, the campiness of everything outside "Hell Lake" is on the same level as almost everything inside "Hell Lake." If we're told to mock everything inside the movie-within-the-movie, then why shouldn't we also mock everything outside the movie-within-the-movie?

The dialogue is clunky and inartfully delivered. The action scenes are poorly staged or choreographed awkwardly. Locations like a police station and a bank have bare or non-existent set decoration, not dressed up convincingly at all. Each are also oddly lit and colored.

The writing is vacuous in that it doesn't really develop any of its characters. The treasure hunt has all the intelligence and cleverness of The Amazing Race and its clues and riddles but without any of the fun. It's juvenile, if anything. However, the largest crime perpetrated by Balderson is the fact that it has Benjamin Lutz in his cast and doesn't use him or give him anything to do.

Lutz is an up-and-coming actor. He hasn't done a lot of things, but, in all the things he has done, he's proven himself to be an actor with a ton of potential, charm and sex appeal. For him not to be given more here is a waste and a shame. Lutz should have played the brother. Lutz should have played Ian. Lutz would have injected a lot more life, energy and humor into the role and into the movie overall.

One Star out of Five.
Not Rated but contains sexual situations and violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.
Available on Vimeo.


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