Secrets, everyone has them. The married couple in Art of Deception has a big one. In this thriller from Director Richard Ryan, Joseph Markham and his wife Valentina get caught up in a global conspiracy involving a deadly virus, the cure for the virus, and a microchip. Joseph works for the C.I.A. When he discovers one of the projects he has been working on is actually part of a secret plot of the C.I.A.’s Deputy Director to take over the world, he decides to fight back. The Director has Valentina kidnapped and tries to discredit Joseph in an effort to keep his global domination plan a secret. Little does he know that Joseph and Valentina have a secret of their own that will make it very difficult for the organization to enact their plans.
Art of Deception is an ambitious film that is part Tom Clancy political thriller, part Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and lots of action. Ryan manages to use the concept of secrecy to his advantage. The sets are fairly sparse, using just enough props to let the audience know what the setting is supposed to be. Things are kept inconspicuous, something a secret organization would want. The bad guy’s plot is also pretty straight forward, giving us just enough details to understand the threat they pose. It is in the action scenes where Art of Deception is the strongest. The scenes are tension filled and sharply choreographed. They are not complex but still look really good for a small budget action movie.
The performances of our leads are solid as well. Richard Ryan is pulling double duty by being in front of the camera as Joseph Markahm. He was a believable fighter and held his own in the stunt filled scenes. The relationship between Joseph and wife Valentina also felt like a real loving couple. This connection is helped with the solid performance of Jackie Nova as Valentina. She gets a chance to show off her action skills, and I enjoyed this pairing. I also enjoyed Leon van Wass as Deputy Director Roland Smith. He plays the desperate bad guy to a tee and was fun to watch. Another fun character is the Deputy Director’s sociopath for hire Agent Vaughn, played by Andrew Miller. He was a very formidable and scary character.
The cinematography was sharp. You could see everything going on in the well edited action scenes. There is also a beautifully shot dream sequence that involves Joseph wandering a snow covered field. He is eventually joined by Valentina who is wearing all white. It is a surprisingly surreal moment in an otherwise straight-forward story. It helped give a break from the action and added another layer to the Joseph character. There was also great use of shadows in the opening sequence that helped set the tone of things to come.
There are a few things that I wish would have been handled better with the Joseph character. They set him up as a very intelligent scientist but for as knowledgeable and worldly as his character is, I found it hard to believe he didn’t realize the connection between the three things he had been working on. I also was hoping there would be a better showdown between Joseph and Vaughn than what we got.
Everyone putting their all in both in front and behind the camera helps elevate Art of Deception above other similar films. While there is not much new here, Act of Deception is a fun watch if you enjoy small budget action films.
The new creature feature from Michael Rodriguez is hitting the festival scene. Daisy is about Felix, a veteran soldier turned mechanic who has a unique companion that he brought back from the middle east. Unfortunately, this companion has a taste for human flesh. We watch as the mechanic helps satiate this craving by using the unsuspecting folks passing through town. When two individuals come looking for a missing person, things get complicated for the man who is helping his demonic companion while also dealing with his own inner demons.
Daisy is a bloody, entertaining, and at times disturbing monster film that makes the most of the budget. The design of Daisy is adorably grotesque. I loved the look of the character and how feral, yet emotional, the creature could be. Jamie Krivobok is fantastic as Daisy and I really dug the character, even when Daisy was munching on her victims. Sparkle Soojian shows up at the beginning of the film playing Ginger, a thoroughly dislikable person, and steals the scenes she is in. Felix is played with slimy goodness by Michael Wainwright. You can almost feel sympathy for the trauma he went through. If it wasn’t for the Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre hitchhiker vibe, he could be likable. I did enjoy how over the top scuzzy he played the part. The rest of the cast put in decent performances and they sold the scariness of Daisy well.
I did not expect the subject of PTSD and survivor guilt to show up in a creature feature but it is there in the Felix character. While it does go heavy into these subjects, you can tell it is part of what motivates Felix to do what he does. It was a nice twist to a classic story, giving a layer to our killer besides just someone siccing their animal on people they don’t like. The rural town setting was very fitting to help explain how Felix was able to cover up Daisy’s violent dinners. The practical effects looked great from the blood spurting from Daisy’s victims to the design of Daisy herself. Make-up effects looked amazing on the title character, especially for the head prosthetic. The only thing that I wish had been a bit better designed were the wings, but that is minor. Rodriguez was working on a limited budget and took care to use the money in the right places.
Daisy is a fun indie monster movie that I think fans of the genre will enjoy. The cast is into it and that helps keep the audience into it. While there are some noticeable small budget aesthetics, it makes up for it with the story and characters. If you are a fan of Michael Rodriguez’s other works then you are sure to enjoy this one. Casual indie film watchers will also find a lot to enjoy. Daisy is making a festival run but keep an eye out for when it hits V.O.D.
I have been reviewing films since high school. I love discussing films with those who share my passion for them. I also do video reviews on YouTube and on my podcast.