A son meets with his incarcerated father at a county prison, seeking his signature for some paperwork. They want to get his legal case going again and get their father out of prison.
But the father isn’t returning any phone calls from the family. He relates the story of why he is in prison — an assassination home awry — and tells his son and his family to forget about him, choosing instead to take his punishment.
But when his son goes away, the father is taken into a different part of the prison, where the truth of what happened unfurls — and reveals just how twisted it really is.
With a sense of the cinematic as wide and vast as its epic vistas and a plot as intricate and complex as the prison itself, this crime drama — directed by Jhosimar Vasquez and co-written by Maximiliano Hernandez and Brandon Lee — uses its considerable craftsmanship to weave a tense, compelling tale about corruption, morality, greed and power.
The story-within-a-story structure is ambitious, especially for the short format, but the storytelling has a clarity and confidence that patiently lays down its puzzle pieces, starting with the dynamic camerawork and cinematography. The excellent writing and editing are terrifically paced and expertly calibrated, which makes remixing and reassembling the pieces of narrative a highly pleasurable and clever experience for the viewer.
That narrative reassembling and remixing takes the elements of its central stories and jumbles them into a constantly shifting picture, reinventing images and motifs with ingenuity and cleverness. But this constant shifting is grounded by terrific performances, particularly by Maximiliano Hernández, who balances both a powerful darkness and flinty, cool intelligence that makes all the story’s twists and turns believable and organic to such a complex character. When all the cards are laid out on the table, viewers will likely feel both intrigue and misgivings at its reveal — but admire the storytelling for its panache.
“The Scorpion’s Tale” offers a wonderfully woven yarn about the constantly shifting, prismatic nature of “truth” and storytelling, as well as the relativity of “good” and “evil” in such a mercenary world. But beyond those questions, the short is simply a dynamite, fun and supremely confident experience, built on solid cinematic craft and skill.
Polished and dynamic, “The Scorpion’s Tale” has a verve and brio that begs to be extended into a feature, especially when the titular “scorpion” reveals his ultimate endgame, which, in tantalizing fashion, is really a new beginning to what promises to be a fascinating, mesmerizing journey. We as viewers are pretty sure that the destination will be no bed of roses — but getting there will be a crazy, entertaining ride.