Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: A Reasonable Man

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 18, 2011

“This is the scariest chase I ever saw since The French Connection.” That’s what a U.S. Supreme Court justice says in reference to videotaped evidence of a high speed police pursuit along Georgia back roads, which has been appropriated by filmmaker Brian L. Frye for his gripping short film A Reasonable Man, embedded above. Another justice — or maybe the same, it’s hard for me to tell — later invokes a Chico Marx joke regarding the evidence: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?” How about you watch the evidence yourself and decide the answer to that question?

Frye doesn’t give any background information in the film about the case that’s being argued, but it’s easy to figure it all out from the Supreme Court audio. (Or check the film’s Vimeo page as a cheat sheet.)

Grainy black and white footage of a police officer's dashboard camera

A teenage kid gets spooked by the cops who pursue him at speeds in excess of 90MPH along a winding two-lane highway in Georgia and partially through a shopping center. One of the officers involved in the chase eventually causes the perpetrator, Victor Harris, to fishtail and crash, turning him into a quadriplegic. The victim later sued the officer for using unreasonable, excessive force.

The media allusions by the court are especially interesting and seem to belong to the modern conceit of comparing horrific events to movie scenes. (Actually, the bit where the victim swerves through a shopping mall parking lot calls more to mind The Blues Brothers than The French Connection.)

On the one hand, Hollywood probably provides a valuable service by filming tragedy as entertainment. Watching The French Connection or Bullitt or Smokey and the Bandit is the closest any of us will get to a car chase and, even though the end result for such chases is a positive one for the heroes involved, we still get the idea that swerving around traffic at high speeds probably isn’t a good idea.

However, I would most likely guess that Victor Harris in the A Reasonable Man video wasn’t thinking specifically of recreating a Hollywood chase scene when he took off like a bat out of hell, but car chases are a part of our personality DNA now. Who’s to say Harris wasn’t casting himself as the hero of his own movie, even on a subconscious level? Don’t most of us do that in our real life situations?

Watch more films by Brian L. Frye at his Vimeo page, or at his official website.

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