Based on the critically acclaimed short story of the same name, The Dunning Man follows the life of Connor Ryan, an Atlantic City landlord who's forced to rent his dingy apartments to a less-than-savory crowd. A relatively straightforward story about financial bad luck immediately gives way to mania and mayhem, as Ryan finds his tenants engaged in a bestial orgy and is nearly killed by Chechen soldiers. If it sounds bizarre, that's because it is.
These absurd moments are, however, balanced with the mundane, as Ryan is forced to shelter his tenant and love interest, Alice, and her young daughter from her neighbors as well as her alcoholic boyfriend. In a film with so many different moving parts, it would be easy for the plot to get muddled, but director Michael Clayton breathes life into Kevin Fortuna's story in a way that feels seamless. The question of why never really enters the viewer's mind. Reality is presented. Acceptance of it isn't a choice but a compulsion. In this world, the weird becomes normal; the normal, tense.
Still, The Dunning Man never feels avant garde or inaccessible. Ryan's bravado is a thin veneer hiding deep wounds. Alice's abusive relationship feels uncomfortably real. At the end of the day, the film, though shocking when necessary, is a simple story of a man trying to pick himself up and the quiet desperation we all face in daily life. The futility of fixing an AC unit. Uncomfortable social interactions. Stepping in dog shit. Even though the world Fortuna's created is tilted on its axis, the viewer could easily see themselves walking in Ryan's shoes.
The Dunning Man is now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Fandango.
The Dunning Man - Cinequest 2017 Trailer www.youtube.com
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. He currently serves as Lead Editor for Gramercy Media. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff
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