This suspenseful comedy-drama gets a little tricksy, with flashbacks within flashbacks and sudden shifts of tone. But the lead actor Aaron Jakubenko (yet another Australian alumnus of the soap Neighbours, nailing the Kansas accent here) has plenty of charisma – enough to pull the viewer along for the rocky ride mapped out by the writing-directing sibling team, Ben and Jacob Burghart. The Burghart brothers originally made a short version of the set up here, also called Head Count, which might explain the film’s bitty quality, but as aspiring film-makers they have a certain flair.

As the film opens, Jakubenko’s protagonist Kat finds himself in the hands of some ominous-looking tough guys who are holding Kat’s own revolver to his head. An arithmetically minded fellow (we later see him getting busted at a casino for counting cards), Kat starts thinking back intensely to all the times the gun has gone off in the last few days in order to determine if there are any bullets left. Cue the tangled string of flashbacks spanning several years to show how he got into this mess, starting with only a few days earlier when Kat was a prisoner of the Kansas Department of Corrections, working on a chain gang. A fellow prisoner further down the chain begged to be allowed to relieve himself in some nearby bushes but became the first of several to be attacked by a pack of cougars. In the confusion, Kat escaped, albeit with a manacle still on his leg. After this absurdist, black comedy opener what follows is a series of farcical events sprinkled with the threat of violence, dosed out in regular intervals.

Various supporting characters weave in and out of the story, including Kat’s brother Hayes (Kyle Dyck) and barkeeper Jo (Melanie Zanetti), for whom Kat holds something of a torch. The Burgharts and their editor, Edward Schroer, use rhyming match-on-edits to create structure, for instance where the empty chambers of a gun echo a wheel of poker chips, or a hand is seen in the same position in two different adjacent shots. That sort of thoughtful level of craft is impressively maintained throughout, from the lighting to the score.


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