You ever wonder what’s in those huge underground tunnels you see around town? You know the ones. You can often find them under a bridge or overpass. I always thought they were bum tunnels. I was terrified to go in them. Sometimes, I’d step in and immediately retreat back on out. I never made it two steps in, so I have no proof that bums ever lived in them. Writers Travis Mills and Drew Koshar have a much different and quite frankly much more interesting theory in the short film The Ruffians, directed by Mills.
The short is about Jim, portrayed here by Gordon Clark, a man working for a law firm. Jim begins to lose focus on his job and his work suffers as he begins to hear a static like noise. The noise appears to be calling him towards a huge underground tunnel that is located outside his place of work.
After becoming increasingly interested in the tunnel, Jim finally decides to venture into the dark abyss and see what, if anything, is calling out to him. Once inside, Jim encounters a tribe of people living a primitive lifestyle, much the opposite of his own.
As the static noise that plagues Jim becomes stronger and stronger, his work suffers more causing a conflict with his boss and pushing him closer to the tribe living underground. As the troubles at work continue to increase into a bigger issue, Jim is forced to decide if he wants to continue to conform to the lifestyle that society deems normal, or give way to his animalistic urges and live with the tribe below.
The Ruffians is a film that truly impressed me at the Arizona Underground Film Festival. The story is something most people should be able to relate to. We’ve all gotten to that point at one time another in our 9-5 job where we just want to get away and live the most simple life. That’s what I took away from this film, that Jim had finally hit that point.
The performance from Clark is picture perfect. He’s outstanding at conveying that feeling of a man that’s just had it with his desk job and is ready to break away from the “norm.” I was fortunate enough to see Clark in back-to-back performances (the first being Bloody Basin) and just from one short to the next you could see the growth in his performance. Clark’s acting ability in The Ruffians appeared to be leaps and bounds above his work in Bloody Basin, and that’s say something as I was a fan of his work in the latter.
The score in this film was fantastic, one of the better scores I’ve heard in a short film. The tribal like drum and bass sounds that played over the scenes in the underground tunnel really set the mood and atmosphere for the entire film. Musical scores can often times go unnoticed, especially in the impact that have on a film, but that is not the case here. With The Ruffians, the music is felt and the impact is clear.
As far as I’m aware this short marks the directorial debut from Mills and what a debut it is. In just a short Mills was able to encompass many of the elements that make a quality film; mood, feeling, story, lighting, score, acting, location, casting, to name a few. If The Ruffians is any indication, Mills is a name you won’t soon forget.