The war has just begun
Its not often that I watch a film that has me laughing during the opening sequence so Mr. Video started off very strongly for me.
The film centres on Will (Gary Holt), the owner, manager and sole employee of a high-street video store of the sort familiar to any of us who were around during the original VHS boom. But the time is now and the shop – Mr. Video – is struggling in the face if larger chains, newer technologies and rampant piracy. It doesnt help that many of Wills customers are more interested the semi-social environment his shop provides than they are in actually renting anything.
When a, frankly obnoxious, young man enters the store, Will finally snaps
Mr. Video is very much a comedy, and one that manages to remain very funny throughout. Much of this, of course, comes down to the writing which is smart, entertaining and packed with ideas and references which will provoke a (possibly guilty) smile from anyone who has taken any interest in the state of the film industry over recent years.
That isnt to say that you need to be a film buff to enjoy Mr. Video. Gary Holt manages to invest so much into his beleaguered everyman that you really can identify with both his struggles and frustrations. So much so that when he does reach his breaking point, he still manages to retain both the sympathy and the empathy of the audience.
This is a hugely funny film, and one with a huge amount to say about film piracy and about the way in which small businesses are often flattened when large retail chains start taking over the high street. And these points are worth considering.
While the big retail chains are often cheaper than their independent rivals, they invariably lack both the variety and the personality of smaller stores. As such, these larger chains are able to push their smaller competitors out of business on the basis of their lower prices, but when this happens we lose far more than we gain.
But the real target of Mr. Video is film piracy. All too often people justify copying or downloading films by claiming that “Steven Spielberg doesnt really need the money.” Maybe he doesnt but, if hes made a film that you want to see, then hes earned it.
More to the point, if you download or copy a film without paying for it you are not just ripping off the millionaire directors at the top of the chain. You are also ripping off everyone else in the distribution chain, right down to the Wills of this world who are struggling to make ends meet by providing these films to the people that want to see them. At the end of the day, if you want to see a film, pay for it and if you dont want to pay, dont watch it.
Mr. Video is a film that makes you laugh and one that makes you think. With this film, John Gray and Alex Masterton have managed to cram a lot of thought into a very short run time in a manner that is both very easy to digest and very watchable. It is a film that I can certainly see myself pulling out in the future and one that is well worth catching if you get the chance.