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Movie Review: Hank’s Auto Repair

Painting of a grimy auto mechanic giving a thumbs up

“Clever” is probably one of the most easily tried for but difficult to pull off emotions a filmmaker can attempt. Yeah, that’s right, I said “clever” is an emotion. Movies are funny or scary or romantic or whatever, yeah. But a good, clever moment that brings a smile to your face not because it’s funny or it’s scary or whatever, but just because the filmmaker has lined up all his elements perfectly and can create an unexpected, smart surprise — those are hard to come by. Writer/director Matthew Stawski totally nails it in his quirky short film.

Of course I can’t write anything about the surprise without ruining the film. No, this isn’t one of those movies where everything hinges on a final “twist” like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects. This is a more modest little film, and by “little” I mean it’s a short film. I think it’s like ten minutes or something. But it has a lot going on in it.

A married couple on their morning commute run into a bloody half-dead guy hanging by his neck in the middle of the street. Think F. Murray Abraham in Scarface still clinging to life, although the rope here to the sky is more surreal than explainable. Anyway, the dying dude asks to be taken to the garage of the film title. Hank is a violent slob of a man married to a crazy one-legged woman who dances by the side of the road. Then there’s a case of missing money, infidelity, brutality — lots of brutality. And then, well then there’s the ending I’m not going to discuss.

Stawski’s visual style is a nice mashup of indie cinema tropes; the garishness of a John Waters flick, the crazy camerawork of early Coen brothers and the bloodiness of Tarantino. But Stawski blends it all together nicely for his own distinctive look and feel. This is a human cartoon of a film. The set-up and characters are all way over-the-top creations that speed by at a breakneck pace. Things really move even though, with the exception of the opening, all takes place in just one location. The gags are good throughout, especially since once the film’s over you get to realize each of them are actually pieces of a larger, smartly put together puzzle.

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