Commendable for its production values and an acute sense of pacing, Bruce Wabbit and Sohaib Syed’s The Crook and the Creek touches upon something truly original and unique but never quite achieves lift-off. Perhaps an extra few minutes of (sharper) dialogue between the two protagonists in this barely-10-minute short would have fleshed them out a bit more. As it stands, the plot comes off as slightly underwhelming.
Set in Belfast in 1931, the film follows Constable Brian Rohan (Syed), captured and led through the woods (in very thick handcuffs) by notorious bank robber Rauri Daly (Joseph Sharkey). The latter man’s brother and partner-in-crime is conspicuously missing. Their conversation eventually leads to the deep-rooted reasons for Rauri’s chosen “profession”, which involves his father and government corruption. “So your boys hit the banks as retribution for your father?” Brian inquires. A few moments later, Rauri concludes: “I dunno. Maybe I just like robbing banks.” Before they get a chance to bond, a betrayal is revealed, the handcuffs come off, and, well, the ending will remain unspoiled.
The two leads hold the screen, although Sharkey inhabits his character a little more naturally than Syed. The setting and tone of the piece are quite singular. One wishes Wabbit and Syed utilized them more effectively: how the politically-tumultuous backdrop only intensifies these men’s hostile feelings; how humanity still lurks beneath layers of political / personal resentment; how at the end, we’re all human, and it becomes most apparent out in the wilderness. Echoes and whispers of said themes grace the edges of this film’s frames but fail to shine quite as vibrantly as its beautifully saturated colors.
What the film does say, it seems, is that when driven by personal demons, unadulterated hatred, and politically-charged ambitions, one tends to disregard the shreds of humanity that may surface in their perceived enemy. Does Brian seek fame, retribution, atonement? Perhaps it all simply comes down to racism – specifically, the word “gypsy.” Would that even be an issue in 1931? Hard to tell, but here’s to more, and deeper, cinematic explorations from the ambitious, not-quite-there-yet filmmaking duet.