September 30, 2008
Eric Shapiro is an excellent fantasist who churns out one great short story after another. In making the jump to storytelling for the big screen, he proves he can wring suspense visually, too. He directs Rule of Three from a script by his wife, Rhoda Jordan, although the idea generated with him.
And it’s a terrific idea, taking place almost entirely within one hotel room, but in three points of time involving three sets of characters. First, there’s Jon (Ben Siegler), a father distraught over his missing daughter, Lo (Jordan). Frustrated that the detectives are dragging their feet, he goes to the desert hotel where she was last seen and finds a vaguely threatening note promising him closure at 3 p.m.
Second are Lo and her boyfriend (Cary Woodworth), attempting to coerce one of their friends into a threesome, and finally finding a willing partner (Tiffany Shepis). Finally, there’s a sad-sack loner (Lee Schall) attempting to buy roofies for a girl he likes, so he calls a delivering drug dealer (Rodney Eastman, I Spit on Your Grave) who says, “The truth is a lot like pussy: It’s always a little uglier when you shine some light on it.” The link between the first groups of people is obvious, but the second? Your initial thoughts are incorrect.
Shapiro’s too smart for that. Although at times too slowly paced, this quiet thriller lulls you into a false sense of complacency, generating a rhythm that suggests the night is going to pass uneventfully. It’s not, and this is a good thing; it’s called unpredictability. Shapiro and Jordan have a last-minute ending in store that you’re not likely to see coming; as they pull those strings tight into a double knot, you’ll be shocked, yet you’ll smile at being cleverly duped.