Writer and director Robert Machoian created an endearing yet harrowing film with The Integrity of Joseph Chambers (2022), with much of the credit owed to the performance of Clayne Crawford in the titular role. Joe wakes up and is determined to go deer hunting solo, despite the protests from his wife (Jordana Brewster). He’s never been hunting before, and even has to borrow a rifle from a friend in order to achieve his goal. An insurance salesman by trade, Joe feels the need to prove himself as a man, and that knowing how to do things like this could be important in the future. Despite his intent, hunting doesn’t quite seem to be exciting to Joe, as he spends most of his time in the woods bored, or being a bit silly…that is, until something goes wrong, which immediately begins to torment the good man that he believes himself to be.
The film rests squarely on Crawford’s shoulders, as he is alone for a large portion of the 90-minute runtime. I’ve not seen his previous work, but I would definitely watch something he is in because he is in it. The performance here has so many different layers. He is first tasked with getting the audience on his side, which is done mostly with an endearing charm that seems to pour out of him easily. The movie begins with his shaving and shaping his mustache, then pretending to be a cowboy about to draw. There are plenty more scenes that add to our take on the character, which is essential for the later scenes when things take a turn.
As far as the filmmaking of The Integrity of Joseph Chambers goes, I was very impressed with the sound design, and how it adds something to this otherwise sparse film. There is not a need for a lot of visual flair in this movie, as it takes place mostly in the woods. However, the sound design helps us get into the silliness of Joe. He’s not a survivalist, and he clearly doesn’t have a true desire to be out hunting. In a stint of boredom, Joe begins to pretend that he is a pitcher at the 1991 World Series. Slowly, the sounds of a ballpark packed with fans are layered into the scene. We hear what Joe is hearing inside his imagination. It’s another moment that really helps us connect with the character, and will cement our feelings about him over the course of his struggle that is impending.
The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is a truly solid film that demonstrates what can be done on a modest budget and a little bit of talent. Okay, maybe a lot of talent – but still. It’s a simple film that sharply emphasizes character and ethical choices. What would a good man do if it could cost them everything? There are a few other characters who come into play throughout the film, but I’ll leave those out of this review to allow them to land when they do. The Integrity of Joseph Chambers (2022) earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.