‘A Lot of Nothing’ Drenches Real-World Issues in Thrills and Satire



via RLJE Films

Breaking from Hollywood tradition, co-writer and director Mo McRae – recognizable to audiences through his roles in Sons of Anarchy, The Flight Attendant, The First Purge, and Almost Family to name but a few – doesn’t appear on-camera in his feature-length directorial debut A Lot of Nothing, but he leaves an impression nonetheless.

While most actors are happy to appear in their own projects – and often tend to play major roles within them – McRae instead focuses on the characters and craftsmanship, with an impressive opening shot that runs for over 15 minutes instantly establishing him as a talent well worth keeping an eye on. In the space of a single unbroken take, A Lot of Nothing introduces its protagonists, antagonists, setting, and context all in one fell swoop, even if it struggles to maintain that momentum throughout.

The Last Man on Earth‘s Cleopatra Coleman and Insecure‘s Y’lan Noel headline the incendiary socially-conscious thriller as James and Vanessa, an idyllic couple who seem to have it all. Happily married, wildly successful in their chosen careers, and financially comfortable, their lives are upended in the course of a single night by something as seemingly innocuous as a news report.

Upon discovering a tragedy involving a police shooting, they realize the culprit responsible for gunning down an innocent youth also happens to be their neighbor, as played by This Is Us alum Justin Hartley in a delicious against-type performance. Opting to take matters into their own hands, the couple put their heads together to try and figure out how to take a stand against a living, breathing example of injustice and law enforcement brutality that lives next door.

via RLJE Films

Initially, their idea of doing something about it involves the ominous threat of a strongly-worded social media post, which finds them debating which Martin Luther King Jr. quote would make the most sense, before instead deciding that weaponizing the words of Winston Churchill would have a greater impact. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s entirely the point, with A Lot of Nothing proving to be a title that has more than one overt meaning as the story progresses.

Further spanners are thrown into the works when James’ brother Jamal (Shamier Anderson) and his heavily-pregnant partner Candy (Lex Scott Davis) turn up for the dinner date that ended up being completely forgotten about, never mind the vigilante-style escapade across the block that yields a kidnapping, thoughts of murder, and more than a couple of rug-pulls that keep you guessing how it’s all going to pan out by the time the credits come up.

As strong as the cast prove to be across the board, A Lot of Nothing arguably adds one subplot too many, particularly when it comes to familial revelations that threaten to devolve into outright soap opera territory. However, when McRae and his players are entirely focused on the central conceit, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

A tightrope needs to be walked carefully when dealing with timely and prescient plot points that are all over the news way too often for the wrong reasons, especially when there’s a deliberate tinge of satire to the proceedings that becomes increasingly prominent as the night continues to spiral out of control, but it’s to the director’s credit – and the strength of the screenplay penned alongside Sarah Kelly Caplan – that A Lot of Nothing doesn’t start to wobble until it reaches the third act.

via RLJE Films

A residential fantasy, relationship drama, pointed examination on how class and wealth divides can unite and fracture in equal measure, and occasionally laugh-out-loud situational comedy from scene to scene, McRae is spinning a startling number of plates for a first-timer on the feature circuit, but it’s to his immense credit that only a couple of them drop, and even fewer shatter.

Once the fate of Hartley’s Brian has been decided – temporarily at least – things begin to get a little forced when it starts to feel as though McRae is seeking for a definitive answer to all the questions he’s been posing, with the aforementioned twists being piled on top of sudden left-turns weighing things down just a little too heavily.

The bravura first hour is more than enough to give A Lot of Nothing a glowing recommendation, though, leaving us equal parts fascinated, excited, and curious to see what he’s got up his sleeve next after passing a challenging debut with almost flying colors.


Despite some third act wobbles, ‘A Lot of Nothing’ marks a strong, stylish, and suspenseful debut from co-writer and first-time feature director Mo McRae.



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