There’s something for everyone in writer/director Marc Price’s 2018 independent action comedy, Nightshooters.
The film has a bevy of bad guys, a whole camera crew of protagonists, an entire abandoned building and the tropes of at least three or four genres. When the film works, it really works, but the overly long film also suffers from trying to over-deliver on everything, leading to an exhausting final result.
The UK film has an intriguing premise: an independent film crew shooting a low budget zombie film is wrapping up production in an abandoned high rise scheduled for demolition the next morning. Most of the film’s first act is dedicated to introducing the film crew and establishing their working relationship, which includes dickish and demanding director Marshall (Adam McNab), capable Canadian DP Jen (Kaitlyn Riordan), hands-off sound guy O’Hara (Nicholas Aaron), put upon PA Kim (Mica Proctor), make-up and FX mastermind Ellie (Rosanna Hoult), drunk star Harper (Doug Allen) and his stunt double, Donnie (Jean-Paul Ly).
The inciting incident occurs when Jen inadvertently records local demolition businessman and low-rent mobster Tarker (Richard Sandling) executing a man in the adjacent building. As Tarker and his seemingly limitless arsenal of bland thugs and hired assassins storm the building, the film crew is forced to go into battle mode in order to survive the night.
Alas many of these opening character-driven scenes wind up feeling like padding after the action begins. Few of the protagonists are memorable and their relationships with each other don’t play significantly into the plot (outside of the rare instances when someone is killed). While the attempt to develop these characters is admirable, the reality is that Nightshooters is far more interested in its action setpieces, which makes many of these beats feel superfluous and unnecessarily contributes to the film’s overly lengthy 1 hour and 45 minute runtime.
There’s also a lack of specificity that often makes time and location unclear. There’s a natural ticking clock aspect built into Nightshooters‘ premise in that both groups have until sunrise to wrap up their business before the building will be destroyed. Alas Price’s screenplay rarely elaborates on what time it is, or how long is left before sunrise, which is a small but vital overlooked detail.
The same issue applies to the lack of geography. Because the building is empty, nearly every floor looks the same, which becomes an issue when characters try to hide. Nearly all of the floors, rooms and stairwells appear identical so it’s frequently unclear where anyone is in proximity to everyone else. Nightshooters is a low-budget independent film stretching its production budget so it’s an understandable limitation, but the generic setting and lack of set dressing is a drawback.
Where Nightshooters excels is in the action department, particularly its hand to hand combat scenes. Ly is the film’s secret weapon and stand-out; he has no less than three epic fight sequences, all of which are on-par with the best action to come out of Hollywood in recent years (a none-too-subtle John Wick name-drop by a character is apt). This is where Price’s direction and editing, as well as the film’s stunt team, shine.
Nightshooters works best when it leans into its more outrageous elements: many of the bad guy deaths are hilarious, gory or both and it is exceedingly fun to watch the protagonists cleverly use their film production knowledge to survive and fight back (cue the exploding squibs, microphones to locate villains and even a corrosive make-up cocktail).
Admittedly some of Price’s attempts to balance explosive action, gross-out comedy gags and more serious moments don’t always work. The tone is far dicier when the film plays it serious (typically when the film crew is put in danger, injured or even killed). When it is delivering straightforward action comedy without trying to create legitimate stakes, however, Nightshooters is often thrilling.
Overall, Nightshooters is a fun, frequently exciting action comedy that works best when it leans into its outrageous premise. At 1 hour 45 minutes, the film definitely overstays its welcome and there are uneven tonal issues throughout, but the fight scenes alone are worth the price of admission. 3/5
Nightshooters played at the 2021 Toronto After Dark Film Festival