We all know the high-concept film. From that basic “what if” premise to the following plot structure, executed in varying degrees of success, that keeps us within the film’s limited scope. While the term “high-concept” is loaded with negative connotations, it can be executed with great skill and success. Just look to last year’s “The Raid:Redemption”, “Judge Dredd” or even “The Grey” for proof that a simple narrative conceit can yield a darn good movie. The trouble in these clever set-up first, everything else second types of movies, though, is that they depend on a careful balancing act between technical execution and narrative conceits. Meaning, in short, that these films can’t be a concept for a concept’s sake, they have to make sense and progress logically within their own fictional universe. Too often high-concept films turn into “Phone Booth” where the conceptualization mostly stopped at the title. Along those lines, the latest film from director Olatunde Osunsanmi, Evidence, is an entry into that high-concept school of filmmaking, title and all. While you can feel the concept, and the attempt at cleverness, it’s not entirely clear if the film itself manages to rise above its general conceit.
Evidence opens in grand fashion, with swooping camera work, and a fair share of CG manipulation in which we are introduced to the aftermath of a grandiose crime scene. Several sources of video are discovered at the scene and whisked away to a lab, and to our main characters, to be examined. At this point, the film is almost set up as the connective tissue of an anthology film. We have one investigative story that examines several different perspectives of the same crime. If the film did traipse into a true anthology format, the construction of the movie would not only make more sense, it would probably be more interesting as well. Instead, the audience is basically treated to CSI: The Movie. Our detectives pick up important minor clues at opportune plot moments, only to be diverted several times until the final truth is revealed.
That format, and that high-concept idea, is where Evidence falters into a completely average and forgettable film. It would be an overstatement to call the film terrible, there is nothing egregiously awkward or bad within its running time, but there is also not much noticeably good. It is your standard, cookie cutter crime investigation film, with the high-concept of found footage thrown in. If that’s what a viewer expects and signs on for, they’ll probably leave the film with an accepting shrug. If anyone is hoping for something a bit more engaging and interesting though, they’ll likely leave disappointed.
Evidence follows the progression of its ilk. Both the cliches of crime-investigation plots and found footage tropes are present and used to expected ends. If a film was ever assembled with a connect-the-dots diagram, this would be the movie. You can see the skill and aptitude in assembling the story. Unfortunately, that story is based solely on things we’ve already seen, right down to the forced twist ending.
It may even be argued that, up to that forced pseudo-clever ending, Evidence is mostly adept at telling its story. When that final twist comes though, the attempt at fooling the audience and presenting that “aha” moment is not only clunky, but mildly insulting. For a twist to work it has to make sense in the fabric of the story, subtle hints dropped along that way that make it all add up without allowing the audience to see it coming. In Evidence, the twist is mostly out of nowhere but that’s only because it doesn’t really make any narrative sense. From hazy motivations to logistical challenges, the eventual twist is so unbelievable and forced it pushes an otherwise blandly entertaining movie into a maddening one.
With that in mind, its pretty clear that the high-concept portion in the development of Evidence is really the only portion given any care to. When that general “what if a crime was videotaped from several angles?” angle is played out the rest of the film slowly degrades into a pile of nonsensical and forgettable storytelling with a whimper of an ending.