The closure of theaters amongst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has limited film releases worldwide. At this point, film-goers are desperate for any piece of new cinema they can get. With that said, Anthony Z. James’s first feature film, Ghost, has the potential for an exciting cinematic experience. Shot exclusively on an iPhone, Ghost is a crime drama that takes heavy inspiration from the works of legendary filmmaker John Cassavetes. But while this has moments of inspiration, I can say wholeheartedly that this experience doesn’t pay off in the way I had hoped.
Ghost is about ex-con Tony (Anthony Mark Streeter) trying to save his son Connor (Nathan Hamilton) from following the same path he did. While the plot is simple, the character of Tony makes this film. In particular, Streeter should receive recognition for being marvelous as Tony. For the first ten minutes, we learn a lot about Tony without him uttering a word. Thanks to Streeter’s strong body language, Tony sets up a high bar for the rest of the movie to clear.
The cinematography was fantastic, even for something shot on an iPhone. More often than not, the film looks great and has terrific shot compositions. Although the handheld camerawork was distracting from time to time, it is the only drawback of this style of filmmaking. With this film, James showcases his talents as a cinematographer and I hope he continues to impress with his future projects.
However, while the cinematography is relatively impressive, the sound design is a huge wrench to Ghost as a piece of filmmaking craft. The lack of a decent microphone or makes the actors difficult to hear whenever they speak. White noise or soundtrack bogs down the speaking parts. Also, a nylon string guitar and a small string ensemble is the instrumentation of the soundtrack. As a result, the soundtrack becomes stale as the film progresses due to its lack of variety and depth.
Another downside to the film is how unbalanced its character development is. As much as Tony is a fascinating character, Connor’s arc is just a wave of emotions, and not in a good way. He’s full of angst, anger, sadness, and joy. The painful part was the inability for him to display each emotion at the proper moment. There’s a subplot about his girlfriend having an affair that has no reason to be in the film other than to extend the run-time. In fact, once the subplot reaches its conclusion, we don’t see the girlfriend again. It’s a waste of what could have been more time to develop other characters.
This bare story had a lot of opportunities to become more compelling. Although it has various side characters, the only purpose they have is to propel the plot back on track. No one aside from Tony really provides the film with any sense of emotional direction. To add, every character must be having the worst day of their life because all they do is brute. I can’t mention a single character that didn’t look emotionally exhausted – and unnecessarily so, I might add. Everyone greets each other like it’s an episode of Cheers, but is nowhere as interesting or fun as Cheers.
Ghost is essentially a Great Value American History X without the neo-nazis. Aside from Anthony Mark Streeter’s Tony, most of the scenes fall flat. In all fairness, the film is not so dull that it’s a truly forgettable experience. Nevertheless, the film itself could have been a lot better. Anthony Z. James had the vision, but he sadly didn’t have the foundation. – Jacob Mauceri
Ghost will be available on Amazon Prime on July 10, 2020.
The film stars Anthony Mark Streeter, Nathan Hamilton, Russell Barnett, Emmy Happisburgh, Severija Bielskyte, and Jamie O’Neill.