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Criminal Audition Main

Criminal Audition Movie Review

Written by Gareth Beverstock

Released by Mordue Pictures


Directed by Samuel Gridley
Written by Luke Kaile and Samuel Gridley
2019, 92 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest world premiere on 24th August 2019

Noeleen Comiskey as Ms M
Angela Peters as Adeline
Rich Keeble as William
Scott Samain as Moe
Rebecca Calienda as L / Lydia


After several short films, Samuel Gridley has moved up to his first feature, Criminal Audition. In this thriller/black comedy, William, Ryan and Moe, members of a secretive ‘company’ meet at an abandoned theatre in order to audition 3 possible suspects; L, P and J, for a crime someone else committed. But when the shadowy and sadistic Ms M and her Assistant Morris appear to “shake things up a bit”, the carefully constructed plan gets thrown out of the window and they are dragged into a vicious game.

criminal audition 01

I had some high hopes for this film. When I saw the trailer and read some of the background for it, I was intrigued by its concept, the idea that a company pays people to confess to high-profile crimes they didn’t commit. It gives the impression of a massive sprawling shadow company, working at undermining the justice system by exploiting people’s weakness and greed. Then I saw it, and was... disappointed.

For a black comedy it is a let-down. Many of the jokes feel like they miss the mark, although I did chuckle at a couple; the story of the scolding tea, with Morris’s slightly camp menace turned up to a reasonable level, and the last joke in the car. As for the rest, well they sort of end up feeling like a damp firework. Even as a thriller, it can’t quite get the tension right. On occasion, just as the tension is building, it is curtailed by a joke or just never followed through. Yes, it’s claustrophobic, making solid use of the restrictive location, but it doesn’t counter that in any way. By adding the odd scene outside, it would make the confined space feel more oppressive and inescapable. So, by the time the end of the film comes, you’ve grown slightly tired of the same interrogation room, the kitchen and the corridors.

criminal audition 02

The acting is inconsistent. Rich Keeler as William and Noeleen Comiskey as Ms M are excellent, with William’s fading confidence replaced by fear and powerlessness being convincing. So too is Ms M’s sadistic glee as she strips away that power for her own agenda. The three candidates, L, P and J, are a mixed bag, however. They have some really amazing scenes that convey powerful emotions, then they are reduced to clichéd stereotypes and ham acting. This especially relates to P, for most of his screen time he overacts to the point that the very ham drips from the bone. A camp flare that doesn’t match up to the character you see later on, when he talks about why he volunteered. The same can be said for L, at times exceptional then at others bland and two-dimensional. Moe, the hired muscle, is more stagnant comic relief and Morris, well there’s only so far you can take that camp menace before it wears thin. As for Ryan, the main character, the best way I could describe him is ultimately forgettable.

criminal audition 03

One of the most glaring faults with the film is its writing, which makes it feel more like a theatre production, reliant on dialogue for exposition. There are only so many times a character should be pressed by another for a backstory before you get to the point of not caring. The stakes lack a threat, but also any payoff.

The film had so much potential, which is let down by so many problems. Some of the acting is amazing, let down by a structure that feels like an actor’s showreel. Criminal Audition needed some extra attention during the early development stages, but I still will keep a look out for new releases by this creative team as there is some talent there.


Movie: 1.5 Star Rating Cover
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