Saturday, March 12, 2016

Web Series Review: Gaby’s Revenge (2016)

There aren’t many cinematographic forms better suited for small, independent productions than the neo-noir thriller genre. In the past couple of years, several brilliant films of this type were made, including the phenomenal Blue Ruin. Now, it seems that filmmakers are trying to use a similar setting and tone and move it to the domain of the online forms like web series.

Jonathan Vargas is one of these people and his new series called Gaby’s Revenge is aiming for a thriller vibe, produced using a limited budget. The first episode begins with the character of Gaby returning to her home, masked and armed.

Through a contact with her handler, the audience learns that Gaby works as a hitman (hitwoman?) but one who is particularly inept in completing jobs in a manner that is not, as the film states “a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie”.

As the conversation unravels, the stage for the plot is set and defined. Amanda Ortega plays Gaby and does a good job by being really low-key and acting in, for a lack of a better word, normal way. It doesn’t take long for the Episode 1: Going to Vacation to connect with the viewers, using the phone conversation as a great character setup and Ortega didn’t miss it.

Here, however, the main problem of the first episode lies – setting the overall emotional tone of the series. Right at the beginning, the character of Gaby’s handler makes a few analogies, including, aside from Tarantino, things like the Call of Duty video games. At the same time, her mildly irritated tone and demeanor, similar to a frustrated boss who is disappointed with one of his less important workers, brings about additional confusion. This sequence, especially its beginning had the power to sabotage the entire setup because, for a long moment, the viewers are left wondering if the series is a parody of some kind, eerie similar to the director’s short feature Flying To Disney World.

Fortunately, Vargas manages to pull the story away from this unwanted path and set the course right at the last third of the episode. Here, the thriller segment is developed fully and it even includes a double murder. While the action part is not technically perfect, it does have the right vibe to it, allowing for the noir theme to be explored – instead of only hearing about Gaby’s profession, the audience gets to see her work.

Many independent works of art struggle with action segments because of completely understandable reasons and Vargas also tiptoed to the edge of looking a bit silly. But, thanks to his cinematographic eye and storyteller instinct, he ended up making it the best part of the episode. At the end, he further profits on the sequence by slowing it down with some greatly chosen music, giving the viewers a solid final sequence and also the biggest reason to keep watching.

Gaby’s Revenge might not come with the full force of a polished post-production, but it offers a promise of a tightly conceived story in the form of a web series. For this series to work, a darker tone might be needed, followed by the more introspective and subtle approach, similar to the one showed by Vargas on the closing shots of Episode 1.