The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE INTEGRITY OF JOSEPH CHAMBERS | The Movie Waffler


An inexperienced hunter's trip to the woods ends in tragedy.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Robert Machoian

Starring: Clayne Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Michael Raymond-James, Jeffrey Dean Morgan


Prime time TV viewers know Clayne Crawford as the star of the Lethal Weapon series, but for those of us more inclined towards American indie cinema he's the breakout star of writer/director Robert Machoian's The Killing of Two Lovers. That movie saw Crawford play a man wrestling with the expectations of being a man, forcing himself to adhere to a dated form of masculinity he was ill-suited to. Reuniting with Machoian, Crawford plays a similar figure in The Integrity of Joseph Chambers, though this time his target is of the animal rather than human variety.

the integrity of joseph chambers review

As the titular Joseph Chambers, we find Crawford rising early one morning and shaving his face, leaving a mustache that makes him look like a cast member of Tombstone. His wife Tess (Jordana Brewster) initially mocks his new look but ultimately concedes that the face fuzz does indeed suit her handsome husband. While Joseph can pull off a mustache and looks the part in the fresh hunting clothes he's assembled, his nervous face betrays him. Joseph has decided that the best way he can be a husband and father is to provide for his family by hunting for food, should the world fall apart. He intends to spend the day hunting, even though Tess insists that as a relocated city boy he's ill-suited and should spend more time with her father, a lifelong hunter.

Joseph is having none of it and heads into the woods with a pickup truck and rifle borrowed from a friend who is as unconvinced as his wife. He spends much of the morning walking around in a state of boredom, making up a song about how he's "the mustache man" and trying not to fall asleep. He carries his borrowed gun in awkward fashion and makes more noise than a herd of elephants as he crunches his way through the woods making "pew pew" gun noises. It seems the day is set o be a write-off, but then he spots a deer in the distance. Startled by a noise as he's taking aim at the animal, Joseph accidentally fires off a shot in the wrong direction.

the integrity of joseph chambers review

[Mild spoiler follows] It doesn't come as a surprise but none of the film's marketing mentions the ultimate destination of Joseph's stray bullet, so I've marked it as a spoiler. It's hardly a shock when Joseph comes across the body of a man (Michael Raymond-James) with a fresh bullet hole in his torso. Joseph's initial response is to flee back to his borrowed truck, where he curls up in a fetal position and cries his eyes out. Then his survival instinct kicks in and he decides to bury the body. Speaking out loud, he tries to rationalise his act as that of shooting a trespasser on private property, but he can't quite convince himself.

The rest of the movie sees Joseph wrestle with the consequences of his actions as he flips back and forth between covering up his accident or admitting to his mistake. It's largely a one-man show for Crawford, who is just as convincing here as in The Killing of Two Lovers as a man who has let societal expectations lead him to tragedy. As with his previous film, Machoian once again frames his human protagonist in a manner that often sees him overwhelmed by an uncaring natural landscape. The sound design serves to both externalise Joseph's psychological stress with its discordant instrumentation and drown him out with the whoops and hollers of the local wildlife. It adds an extra element of production value to what is clearly a stark product of pandemic era filmmaking.

the integrity of joseph chambers review

While Machoian and Crawford impress once again, there's a slightness to Joseph Chambers that suggests a movie made under limited conditions. You get the feeling that like so many filmmakers, the pair felt they had to get out and make something while the world was locked down. It's not the most original setup, and we've certainly seen more exciting variations on this theme, but I can't think of another movie of this sort that has devoted so much of its running time to simply watching a man wrestle with the implications of his actions. Viewers' mileage will vary, but Crawford is such a fascinating screen presence that his tortured face should be enough to hold the attention of most.

The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is on UK/ROI VOD and bluray from April 17th.