Dealer: A Uniquely Nevada Comedy (Las Vegas Film Festival Day 1)

by Russell D. Christian, Esq.

(Las Vegas) The 2016 Las Vegas Film Festival kicked off yesterday with a burst of frentic energy care of the first official screening of the indie comedy film Dealer starring UNLV film school alumnus Lundon Boyd.

Dealer starts with a simple but interesting premise which sets up all the ensuing action and jokes. Kelly (Boyd), a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, is unwillingly conscripted into delivering four packages of drugs to different clients when his drug-dealing roommate is mysteriously stabbed (in comedic fashion, of course). This basic premise sets up what is also a very interesting production concept: the four drug deals are essentially four separate short films with their own respective production units and directors. All total the talented team of Jeremy Cloe, Jerry and Mike Thompson, Cody and Ryan LeBoeuf, and Adam Zielinski all contributed as directors and together prove they are an emerging force to be reckoned with on the indie comedy scene.

The creators of Dealer take Q & A at the 2016 Las Vegas Film Festival

In Dealer, Boyd perfects his “ordinary guy in an unordinary situation” style of comedy that was on display last year in his controversial crowd favorite short film Lundon’s Occulus Rift. (Warning-absolutely NSFW). His four drug deals take him through four separate and uniquely Las Vegas worlds, however the usual Las Vegas motifs (mobsters, gamblers, strippers, drug-fueled excess, the Wild West, cowboys) come across new and modern thanks to the excellent screenplay and Boyd’s talented mix of zany physical comedy and intelligent wordplay. All the while the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, even turning the wordplay on itself as part of a running joke during the second (and in my opinion the funniest) drug deal involving another crime boss and his hipster-cowboy bodyguard. The film also has a uniquely Las Vegas feel as it was filmed entirely on location in Nevada and prominently features such local landmarks as Lake Mead, the Strip, downtown Las Vegas, the Artisan hotel, a mansion formerly rented by Michael Jackson, and Lonnie Hammargren’s Castillo del Sol. On a personal level I chuckled at a road-rage scene that occurred right in front of the State Bar of Nevada’s office building. The acting, too, featured a blend of familiar faces courtesy of some UNLV film school students and even a cameo from the Film Department chair Francisco Menendez. (Menendez had previously addressed the crowd after a screening of excellent UNLV student films) The film also features music from locally acclaimed musicians Same Sex Mary and Jack Evan Johnson, and Dealer also gets a boost thanks for the brief but remarkable appearance of industry veteran Pat Healy (Magnolia, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordCaptain America: The Winter Soldier) as the enigmatic drug kingpin “X”.

Francisco Menendez
UNLV Film Department Chair Francisco Menendez

In what may be an unintentional drug metaphor, Dealer takes a while to get rolling but once the first gag hits the craziness kicks in and I found the film was punctuated by staccato bursts of laughter throughout the duration thanks to the many gags and well-written jokes. That’s not to say that Dealer is all just gags and physical comedy-I could easily see Dealer earning cult status due to some of the more nuanced and detail-oriented humor that gets lost amongst the madness of the first viewing but will emerge after repeat viewings. Finally, smoothing out the punctuated laughter was actually a very relatable story about a  guy who is tired of his ordinary life and routine, but finds amidst the chaos that perhaps ordinary isn’t so bad after all. I really hope this uniquely Nevada comedy gets picked up for distribution soon and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys indie comedy films.

Dealer definitely started the 2016 Las Vegas Film Festival on a high note with a very funny film that was well received by the capacity crowds as the Inspire Theater (and the overflow screening at the Fremont Country Club). I have high hopes for the upcoming films this week and look forward to seeing more!

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