Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Ken Lin for allowing me early access to his debut, 7 minute Crime/Drama short, “California Roll”. California Roll sees Billy and Tako, two conflicted and inefficient criminals (played by Lin himself and Jun Suenaga) storm a quiet sushi bar ill-equipped to deal with the female patrons and their intended follow through. The film also stars Sibyl Santiago, Veronica Reyes-How and Sara Kim.
The colorful poster art was the determining factor in me inquiring about Lin’s film, and his first foray into the world of film making at that. The neon structured palette carries over to the presentation, in turn giving off the feeling of something late 80’s early 90’s in nature. DP, Roland Lazarte has a number of credits under his belt and it shows in the quality of his cinematography. Everything is neatly framed and competently shot, while keeping the approach simple. The audio track is clear and the synth orientated score complements the tone of the setting too. There are dueling dilemmas at play in California Roll. One is the realization that Billy and Tako’s destiny is completely in their hands, at least right up until any action is carried out. Secondly, they have to contend with the unknown and what they mind find if they choose to embrace the women in the restaurant. Lin’s performance reminded me of a James Duval type display, and I dug it.
California Roll would benefit from going through another master to get a slightly better sound mix. The dialogue is a little low in places and the music marginally loud (though this is just a screener). There’s a lack of confidence that unfortunately shines through with first time performer, Sara Kim. She does her best, but it’s a bit too calm of a portrayal and a little awkward in delivery. Given the plight she’s in as an employee of the bar, I found it hard to believe.
California Roll is a pleasant watch and a professionally made film from a first time filmmaker. It actually took me back to my own first filmmaking experience in 2016. I love the poster art, the premise is interesting and the resolution was a surprising one. The camera work is solid, the music retro and Lin’s first time in front of the camera (as well as behind it) is a successful one. The master could use a little tweaking and hopefully Kim finds growth in any future projects. All in all, great stuff and I can highly recommend this one for Crime fans! Keep an eye out for California Roll, it’s currently on the film festival circuit and you can watch the teaser trailer below.
My rating for “California Roll” is 8/10