Film Review: Shot

Noah Wyle’s vivid performance as a victim of random gun violence anchors one side of a split-screen drama that’s only half good.
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The medical drama Shot aims to inject a sense of visceral immediacy into the debate about gun violence, by portraying two sides of a crime. Eschewing ideological arguments about Second Amendment rights, or political speeches for or against owning firearms, the film instead focuses on the immediate aftermath of an accidental shooting that sends the young, poor minority perpetrator on the run, and leaves the unfortunate middle-class victim fighting for his life inside a hospital.

That the victim, a Hollywood sound editor named Mark Newman, is played by former “E.R.” doc Noah Wyle should thrill fans of that beloved show who might be excited to see television’s erstwhile Dr. Carter poked and prodded, cut open and cat-scanned as Shot’s featured trauma patient.

Wyle’s quite convincing too, enacting Newman’s emotional shock and physical agony, along with his admirable determination to keep his wits about himself. Mark’s the sort of driven pro who, even while lying on an emergency-room gurney, worries about who’s going to finish the sound mix that his bosses expect him to deliver in less than 36 hours.

The humor’s droll, and the pace quick on Mark’s side of the story, as he clings to the light of his life, his estranged therapist wife, Phoebe (Sharon Leal). Director Jeremy Kagan delivers a bloody authentic emergency-room experience, right down to the clipboard-toting hospital administrator who strolls in to chat about insurance as Mark’s being prepped for surgery. And Xander Berkeley has several good moments, as the attending E.R. physician who keeps calling our guy “Mack.”

The doctor’s error might be due to the fact the he can’t remember Mark’s name, or rather because, in an effort to establish a comforting rapport with patients, that’s what he calls every blood-soaked, traumatized victim who rolls into the ward. The script, by Anneke Campbell and Will Lamborn, based on a story by Kagan, trades more in blunt-force messaging than nuance, but generally conveys a worldly view of human behavior.  Additionally, Wyle and Leal lend the couple’s shaky relationship a believably lived-in feel that adds to the stakes of whether Mark will survive. And even if he does pull through, there’s reasonable suspense of whether this event will bring he and Phoebe closer together, or be the final, fatal blow to their marriage.

In fact, just moments before that bullet shot from out of nowhere and pierced Mark’s chest, Phoebe had presented him with divorce papers. Their future life story is interrupted by a gun-wielding teenager, Miguel (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), a nerdy, cookbook-reading kid in the hood who thought a pistol might protect him from bullies. Picked on by a trio of ragamuffins, who rough him up but frankly don’t appear all that threatening, Miguel procures the gun, and promptly fires off a shot unintentionally, striking and critically wounding Mark, a random passerby.

He could have shot anybody is the implication, and, like most of Miguel’s story—which often plays out in split-screen opposite Mark and Phoebe’s more compelling scenes—the delivery’s not that subtle or convincing. Lendeborg gives it a good shot as the somewhat-innocent kid, but the film drags as Miguel takes off from the crime scene and wrestles with whether he and his struggling family can afford for him to turn himself in to the police. While Mark’s in the hospital seeing visions of blissful marital moments in the overhead lamps, Miguel spends the day lying low, fretting, rubbing his mom’s feet, presented as background to Mark’s more urgent, life-and-death situation. Mark’s plight resonates, while Miguel seems just a vague sketch of a character.

The film more or less marks time with Miguel and his ostensibly pious mom until an inevitable confrontation between the film’s two unequal halves provides two unequal resolutions. Shot ultimately harvests some meaning from its portrayal of the rippling effects of gun violence, but what lingers in the end are the implausible turns of the final act, and a treacly closing theme song that aims for Randy Newman territory and hits the target in the worst way.

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