Crime stories get a lot of play in storytelling. Could be as classic as Othello or as modern as The Legend of Jack and Diane (2023); stories in which someone either gets in too deep, trusts the wrong person, or generally finds themselves preparing to ride the rap, compel us whether told as drama, comedy, horror, or some combination of any. One to release this year, One Day as a Lion, written and starring Scott Caan (Hawaii 5-0/Ocean’s series) and directed by John Swab (Ida Red), mixes drama and comedy to fascinating effect, crafting a film that evokes the narratives of a classic Elmore Leonard tale with the expected crime tropes, but executes in a way in which it comes off fresh and with plenty of heart. If you missed its theatrical release, One Day as a Lion is already out on VOD and digital with DVD including a very bare-bones bonus features selection following.
Jackie Powers (Caan) is having a classically shit day. His son, Billy (Dash Melrose), is in juvenile detention for a crime he didn’t commit and has three days until his arraignment. With Billy’s mother Taylor (Taryn Manning) of no use, it’s up to Jackie to come up with the money for a lawyer, and his only option is to take a gig from his old pal Dom (George Carroll). The job: go talk to Walter Boggs (J.K. Simmons) about the $100K Boggs owes to Pauly Russo (Frank Grillo) and intimidate him into giving up the already six-weeks late funds. Except Walter isn’t easy to intimidate and Jackie isn’t built for this work, leading to an unexpected confrontation that risks not only Billy’s son from falling into the system, but Jackie going to prison and Pauly not getting his money. Time is running out and tensions are riding high. What will Jackie do?
I have a soft spot for stories like One Day, stories where the lead is perhaps decision-making stupid but heart intelligent, whose journey puts him in the path of a potentially understanding and whip-smart romantic partner and surrounds him in a situation that only the absolutely unpredictable can get him out of. This is where much of the comedy in stories like Touch (1997) and Get Shorty (1995) comes from (both Leonard stories that also were adapted to film) and this same narrative styling is where One Day draws its own inspiration. There’s no getting around the fact that, as much as we like Jackie (thanks largely to Caan’s convincing sincerity), he’s still a bit of a bastard who’s done shit that he deserves to do time for. The trick Caan’s script accomplishes is that it doesn’t seek to moralize either Jamie’s behavior or anyone else’s; they’re all assholes in varying shades. It’s just a matter of whether or not a person wants to do right that makes the difference in how their story ends. Sure, that more or less describes he idyllic version of real life where the good guys win out over the bad, but that doesn’t happen, and One Day walks a thin line between what’s satisfying for the audience versus what’s authentic to the story. In this case, it means that by leaning into what makes us human, even when we’re violent, it doesn’t mean we have to be deadly. In fact, so much of One Day could be avoided if only people would actually talk to each other, lead with a bit of kindness. Jamie’s early confrontation with Walter is the catalyst for the bloodshed to come, but it didn’t have to be, and the script keeps pointing this out. Doing so only underscores that the bastards deserve what’s coming to them, making the resolution of the film deeply satisfying on its face.
As clever as the script is, it’s the ensemble cast that makes the film work. Much of the work is on the shoulders of Caan and Marianne Rendón (Charlie Says) as Lola the waitress that Jamie tries to kidnap to cover his tracks and ends up making Jamie a partner in a different, less bloody scheme. Rendón is commanding as the sardonic Lola, finding ways to cut down or uplift Jamie with a line delivery or glance. Though Caan is the clear lead as the film’s introduction to the world and it being his story that propels the narrative action, it’s Rendón as Lola who locks it all down, surprisingly moving into a position where, without her presence, the film can only end in devastation. It’s a slow transition from one actor’s hands to another, demonstrating a comfort with each other, as well as a lack of pride on Caan’s part. For the time spent in the film, Grillo and Simmons seem to be having a blast, chewing scenery when their characters are jockeying for position. There’re two scenes in which it seems like two actors didn’t work together at the same time, making for a strange sense of editing, but, otherwise, the chemistry among the cast as a whole, even Virginia Madsen’s (Candyman) brief appearance as Lola’s mom Valerie, makes an impact.
Unfortunately for folks who enjoyed the film, it appears that One Day is only available on DVD and digital (rent or buy) with only one deleted scene and a trailer as bonus features. This may be Caan’s fourth produced feature script, but how about a commentary track where we could learn about the writing and acting process? Swab did interviews ahead of the theatrical release (you can enjoy his conversation with EoM Senior Interviewer Thomas Manning right here), so why not incorporate that into its own commentary? Where there photos taken? A video diary? Give us some kind of making-of featurette so we can see what it was like for this cast and crew to shoot the film. The cast on this must’ve had a good time, so what better way to endear fans further than to show that off. Perhaps it’s due to the increasing trend on initial releases to skimp on the bonus features, but it’s a *major* frustration. Heck, if you stay through the credits, there’s an alternate take of the Dom-v-Jackie hotel room fight with a completely different actor playing Dom. What’s the story there? Bonus features would be a great place to let us know.
Though the film takes a bit to build momentum and the outcome of the altercation at the start is a tad icky when one thinks about it too long (something the film doesn’t want you to do), One Day as a Lion is surprisingly satisfying. It delivers the drama, comedy, crime, and heart that you want from a film like this. That it just so happens to include a cast of actors that are a ball to watch no matter the dialogue that flows from their mouths (looking at you, J.K.), then you’ve got yourself a good time. It’s actually a shame that there are no real bonus features included in the home release because I’d imagine there may be some stories to tell. Perhaps, though, if there are, we’ll get them in the form of another Caan script. After this one, sign me up.
One Day as a Lion Special Features:
- One (1) deleted scene (0:31)
In select theaters April 4th, 2023.
Available on VOD and digital April 7th, 2023.
Available on DVD May 16th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Lionsgate One Day as a Lion webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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