Review by Ben Gummery
Disclaimer; as a long time fan and supporter of the project, this may not be the most unbiased review but i still wanted to share my thoughts.
‘Shooting Clerks‘ is a biopic of writer/director Kevin Smith which focuses on the production of his 1994 debut hit film Clerks as well as looking into the events that preceded and followed it. From writer/director Christopher Downie and producers Brett Murray & Ryan James the film stars Mark Frost, Chris Bain, Jay Booton, Tom Sullivan, Stephanie Price, Brett Murray and features cameos from several original Clerks cast members including Brian O’Hallaran, Scott Schiaffo, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Ernie O’Donnell & Kevin Smith.
After several preview screenings and festival appearances in the USA & UK the film had its UK Premiere at The Prince Charles Cinema on Tuesday 16th January 2018 followed by a Q&A with cast & crew.
The film follows Kevin Smith’s journey from leaving high-school through his brief stint at film school and the production of his hit debut film Clerks. This approach gives us an intimate insight into how he came to make his own independent film and how family and friends helped shaped his journey along the way. That is the core of the story; however the film-makers also managed to latch on to one of the best aspects of the original film – the comedy! This film is an an un-ashamed laugh riot with constant perfectly delivered one-liners and visual gags that make it a very enjoyable audience experience; it even creates it’s own cut-away gags which are used as a framing device to great effect. I would go as far as to say that the comic skill shown here is on a par with the original film. That being said, the film pulls it punches and does provide a few more moving and intimate moments that contrast well with the comedy.
It was always going to be a tall order to create a biopic of a living director and getting a cast to play living actors & actresses as well telling a story that has already been well told in various podcasts, books & live shows through the years. Add to this that the principle setting for the story is New Jersey and the film was mostly shot in Scotland with Scottish and English actors and what the film-makers have managed to pull off here is nothing short of remarkable. However the film delivers from early on and you soon forget the actors and focus on the story; that being said some of the portrayals and accents are chillingly accurate and all managed to capture the essence of the characters. Mark Frost as the lead plays Smith in a very human and straightforward way and manages to lead the whole film. Chris Bain’s performance as Jason Mewes is a sensational embodiment of the character that gets a great reaction from the audience from his first scene on screen to the last. There were also some great performances through-out the cast, I was blown away by Nick Cornwall‘s performance as Bob Hawk (no small feat – as Bob Hawk himself cameo’s in the Film).
Visually we stay some-what true to the original and the film switches from Black/White & Colour as best fits the story. There are some graphical and effect elements that are used sparingly to add some flavour and separate different chapters of the films. The film was actually shot digitally but some grainy VHS style effects have been added in post for that nostalgic feel. There is even a re-creation of the Quick Stop set as well as re-created scenes from the original film which shows the level of attention to detail and love for the subject matter that is presented on screen.
In the pantheon of film-based bio-pics this is a worthy addition. It would be easy to draw parallels to the recent The Disaster Artist (which, co-incidentally was screening at the same cinema) and I think this stands up very well (and made for a much lower budget).
It is a fitting tribute to the creative mind of Kevin Smith that spawned Clerks but more than that it credits all the people that played a part in that story while being highly enjoyable, hilarious and offering plenty for both Kevin’s fans and the un-initiated alike. – Highly Recommended!
NB: This was not the final cut of the film and further editions and edits are likely before release
Details of further screenings and release of Shooting Clerks can be found below!