REVIEW – LAKE MEAD – A Vegas Story (2022)

As far as short films go, Lake Mead – A Vegas Story is one of the more impressive ones. The production quality is great, the acting is good and there is enough subtext and backstory to keep one engaged for the entire runtime.

As climate change has caused Nevada’s Lake Mead to recede, disturbing information has come to light in its wake. Long considered a dumping ground for dead bodies by nefarious elements throughout the decade, Mead’s contraction has exposed several human skeletons at its bed, solving decades old mysteries about deaths and murders in the area. Using this real life haunting story as an inspiration, the makers behind Lake Mead – A Vegas Story have made a short that fictionalised one such murder.

As far as short films go, Lake Mead – A Vegas Story, is one of the more impressive ones. The production quality is great, the acting is good and there is enough subtext and backstory to keep one engaged for the entire runtime. Zeth Daniels made a great job writting the story, it sucks you in first and then reverses everything you think you knew with its numerous twists and turns. As a result, the short makes for a fantastic viewing, one that doesn’t overload the audience with too much exposition right off the gate.

Zeth Daniels plays Jimmy and Berislav Sertic plays Boris, two lifelong friends who have had run-ins with the law over time. After getting out of a ten-year stint in prison, Boris meets up with Jimmy and the two take a trip across the desert to a dry Lake Mead. Although Jimmy is apprehensive about the trip, Boris keeps him calm, claiming that they are going to the lake to revisit a thing they did in their youth. Things, however, soon take a turn for the worse and both Jimmy and Boris draw their handguns on each other, resulting in a tense standoff that can only end one way.

Regarding the acting, Zeth Daniels and Berislav Sertic are simply fantastic. As the only two actors in the film, they have a lot riding on their shoulders, and they manage to deliver. Since Daniels is the writer of the story, he needed to sell the camaraderie between the characters and how this lifelong friendship turned sour. Both Daniels and Sertic manage to infuse a sense of organic feel to their friendship, harkening to the good old days and right into conflict ridden present. Sertic, on the other hand, has also contributed to the film’s soundtrack in addition to being the lead. The transformation of these two lifelong friends to enemies is done pretty well and the reasons for this turn are both believable and organic. As a result, the resulting conflict is also well developed.

In addition, it is in the pacing of the story where the film also manages to impress. Starting off all slow with a drone shot of a lone car stumbling into an infinite desert, the film establishes the camaraderie of the two leads, filling us all in on their backstory that sounds pretty exciting. There is a hidden subtext in this conversation as Boris is hiding what he has planned and Jimmy is starting to get faint ideas that he might be walking into a trap. This cat and mouse game in the conversation in the start sets the tone for the entire film and as Boris’s reasons for taking the extreme step are revealed, there is no going back for either of them.

One of the film’s strongest suites is its cinematography. Utilising the cold, yellow desert of Las Vegas Nevada as its setting, the film finds two friends head to head in a battle of wits. The yellow drenched visuals are not there merely because they look cool; there is a deeper meaning behind this creative choice. The desert is meant to visualise the empty crucible where all truths are revealed. Far from civilization and distraction, two friends with secrets will find their sins and ills come to light, resulting in a life or death game where only one comes out on top.

The two original songs ‘I Gave My Life’ and ‘Can You Save Me’ are performed by Berislav Sertic. Both set the tone for the film and are entirely in tune with the ill will that happens between two friends. In addition to these songs, the sound mixing and sound editing are also top notch, setting the mood for a tense standoff between two old friends. The entire production design could not be better as the short looks and feels just like any other Hollywood production out of tinseltown.

Berislav Sertic, the director, did a great job. From the stunning opening shot to how the film ends, there are little tidbits here and there that make the film memorable. A director’s job in this aspect is very important, he or she has to make the film stand out from the rest and here, the director has managed to do so spectacularly. The short feels like a deeply personal statement inspired from a real life event with properly motivated characters that go down a rabbit hole of personal enmity in the most shady place in the world.

Thus, to conclude, Lake Mead – A Vegas Story is a sharp, surprising action short that has significant subtexts and themes to go along with its plot. The minds behind the project have created a highly entertaining film, one that goes to unexpected places and is jam packed with several twists and turns. We ended up highly enjoying the film and would not hesitate to recommend it to friends and family.

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