Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

For a modern thriller to hone in on simply two characters, each of them needs to be fleshed out, with concise motives and clever dialogue. The Oak Room gets one of these items correct, with both Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte and Saw VI’s Peter Outerbridge jabbing each other through zippy back-and-forth conversations. The fact of the matter is that no matter how skilled your actors may be, a script that’s essentially two people conversing at a bar shows its cracks the further we get into the unravelling narrative.

As a snowstorm rages outside, drifter Steve (RJ Mitte) returns to a deserted bar in his hometown for shelter. The bartender, Paul (Peter Outerbridge), claims he knew Steve would eventually come back. Paul wants Steve to settle the debt between them before anything else—Steve obliges, with a juicy story that he thinks Paul will find more valuable than money…

The dynamic between Outerbridge and Mitte is captivating from the moment Steve enters the bar. Both do a great job with restrictive material. RJ Mitte especially is a delight, and I would love to see him getting more meaty leading roles. Direction from Cody Calahan is stellar, with lighting and production value that feels high despite the limited setting. The film began to lose me a bit once it devolves into a story within a story within a story. It does eventually get to the point of it all, yet could this have worked better as a short film? I think the answer is a resounding yes, and it could be a great short rather than a serviceable thriller. Tense moments and a handful of memorably biting remarks are the biggest takeaways. “Bartenders listen, alcoholics never shut the fuck up”—truer words have never been spoken. The Oak Room comes to digital download on Monday, April 26th.

Leave a Reply