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Dashcam (2021) Review

Dashcam, (not to be confused with the film of the same name from Host’s director Rob Savage) is writer/director Christian Nilsson’s debut feature. Despite that, he’s already had a film at the number one position at the US box office. How? During the pandemic when there were few theatres open or films to see he rented a theatre, played his short Unsubscribe, and bought all the tickets. Clever way to get your name out there, isn’t it?

That helped him finance Dashcam, a paranoid conspiracy thriller that aims to follow in the footsteps of some very impressive films. Films like Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. Can a first-time director who is best known for a publicity stunt produce something even close to their level?

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Jake (Eric Tabach, Dead Sound, What We Found) is an editor for a local TV station. His assignment at the moment is a simple one. Take the dashcam footage of a controversial shooting and edit it and the reporter’s introduction together.

But along with that footage, he is accidentally sent bodycam footage from the police officer involved. Footage that the police say doesn’t and tells a story that contradicts the official account. One that indicates former District Attorney Lieberman (Larry Fessenden, Dementer, We Are Still Here) was assassinated by the police at the orders of the governor. This could be his big break if he survives long enough to break the story.

Conspiracy theories and police violence are consistently in the news, so it should be no surprise that we would get a film like Dashcam eventually. And having grown up watching conspiracy films like the three I already mentioned, The Parallax View, Winter Kills, etc. it had an appeal for me.

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Unfortunately, Dashcam is nothing like those films. Most of the film’s first half is an extended commercial for Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Computers. We even get to see the editing program’s load screen as one of the film’s first images. The next hour of the film consists of Jake alone at his keyboard examining the footage in Adobe, doing web searches and video chatting.

If you like this style of pandemic filmmaking, or perhaps if you’re an editor, this might work better for you than it did for me. But by thirty minutes into Dashcam I was getting restless. I kept hoping the bad guys would kick in his door and set off a chase. Or he would have to leave to do some research and run into problems, anything to bring the film to life.

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Some of the dialogue is good, likewise, some of the ideas and situations Dashcam brings up are interesting, but they don’t really work when all we get are people talking about them. I’m not asking for 3 Days of the Condor style conspiracy/action hybrid, there obviously wasn’t the budget for it, but a film like this needs actual conflict, not endless talk, to succeed.

By the time Dashcam finally ventures out of Jake’s apartment there are barely fifteen minutes left in the film. And again, nothing exciting happens. Mostly he wanders around by himself looking for something. Even the film’s entirely predictable ending happens off-screen.

Dashcam will be available On Digital platforms on October 19th from Kamikaze Dogfight and Gravitas Ventures. You might be able to find more information on their websites but, the Kamikaze Dogfight site hasn’t been updated in ages. All I got was from Gravitas Ventures’ site was “Forbidden – Visitors from your country are not permitted to browse this site.” Apparently, their site is too good for the eyes of mere Canadians.

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