A character study has been an art that has been featured in film since the beginning. Film classic and heavily debated best film ever contender Citizen Kane showed the power of a well-crafted story that focuses on the life and experiences of an individual. What can be interesting though is where a character study is of an incredibly short period of time, where the audience only has a few days to get to know the emotions and personality of a character they have never met. Cut and Chop puts the character study to the test and asks the audience to try to understand a man’s descent into complete insanity over a couple of days.
Tom (Drew Hale) has recently started some less than fun sexual habits with his partner Esmerelda, he has started biting. Along with drawing blood in the bedroom, he seems to have an eerie obsession with the butcher and his meats at the corner store. Some would call him an eccentric aspiring actor but this strangeness seems to go deeper. It seems trying out for the antagonist role in an independent horror movie has unlocked something unhealthy for Tom, who knows what else it will unlock if he gets the role.
For most of Cut and Chop what we see of Tom is him boarding on creepy to completely disassociated from life with only the opening showing us a seemingly stable Tom. This puts the audience in the situation where we know that he is unstable but are unsure how far down the rabbit hole he plans to go. The acting that Drew Hale brings to the table as Tom is nothing short of incredible, seeing play Tom very childlike where he sees every situation as mysterious and wonderful gives the character a very unique personality that makes his more grisly moments feel otherworldly.
Where the first half of Cut and Chop is mysterious, tense, and thrilling, the second half, while still having much of the same charm, feels like the story ran out of steam. The main conflict that is introduced late into the film feels like what the film had been building up to all along but the plot meanders once it happens. There are still interesting moments with the side characters but the film checks out and ends with a finale that is predictable and feels like the movie just stops rather than having a satisfying conclusion.
Cut and Chop is a film that is a lot of things many of which feel caught between a character study of a deranged man helmed by an actor giving it his all and a story that is for better and worse told in a minimalist way. This is a film that is certainly not for everyone, especially with its almost nihilistic cruelty to a few of the characters, but there is plenty here to keep the audience invested. Considering this is a directorial debut by the main character himself Drew Hale I am very excited to see what his next project is and where his wild ideas take us.