A quality tale with great characters.

by Nav Qateel

Small-time criminals, Tell (Milo Ventimiglia), and brother-in-law Ray (Jason Lee), are captured after a botched bank heist. Ray is shot at the scene, with Tell managing to grab the money and escape to his home. Tell’s wife, Beverly (Katee Sackhoff), is waiting for him. But shortly after Tell arrives, police sirens can be heard approaching the house. A panicked Beverly shoots him in the gut, leaving Tell to hold the cash and to face the cops, alone. Tell briefly gets away but then passes out. When he wakens, the money is missing, he’s been arrested for robbery and the cops want to know where the loot is. Three years later, Tell finally walks out of prison but now everyone is after the cash he claims he doesn’t have, including his parole officer, two crooked cops, an angry Ray and the conniving Beverly.

Tell is Juan M.R. Luna’s impressive debut solo directorial effort, with writing by Timothy Williams, whose darkly witty script was one of the highlights of the film. Similar in some respects to Paul McGuigan’s 2006 crime caper Lucky Number Slevin, Tell follows the exploits of Milo Ventimiglia’s unlucky character, Tell. Like with Slevin Kelevra, Tell goes through the movie being hit in the face by ruthless people who want answers.

Tell is played by the hugely talented Milo Ventimiglia, who really nailed his character. It was interesting watching Tell grow as a person throughout the movie, as he questions his motives and the decisions that he’s made. It’s clear life has never been particularly straightforward for Tell, and Beverly doesn’t make things any easier. Unfortunately, I’d be entering spoiler territory if I were to spill what the couple go through, so I’ll stop here.

Directed by
J.M.R. Luna
Milo Ventimiglia, Katee Sackhoff, Jason Lee
Release Date
4 December 2014
Nav’s Grade: A

Katee Sackhoff is another very talented actor, and I liked the way Ventimiglia and she worked together. They had the right sort of opposing chemistry, to show that Tell and Beverly just weren’t right for each other. This was a nice bit of casting. In fact, overall the casting in Tell was perfect. Ray is ably played by Jason Lee, and this is the sort of character Lee can do exceptionally well. The two crooked cops, performed by Robert Patrick and Alan Tudyk, kept up the humor while lots of dark things were going on. They actually looked like they were having a blast playing these ethically questionable detectives.

The tech aspects were competent, and ultimately the social message was a nice one. Even if it did seem to take killing in its stride. Of course, that’s where the humor came along to help offset this fact. As a crime yarn Tell didn’t exactly break new ground, nor did it set out to. It was the quality of the tale and its great characters that people will respond to the most. If this is a glimpse of things to come from director J.M.R. Luna, then I’ll be making a point to see his future efforts.

Highly recommended viewing.

You can read an interview with Director J.M.R. Luna as he spoke to INFLUX Magazine about the making of Tell, here.