The Wrong Man Review

Tribeca Review: The Wrong Man Animated Film Wavers in Its Vision Against Ross Golan’s Exalted Soundtrack

I came into The Wrong Man blind to the context, as this was my intro to the voice and sound of multi-platinum musician Ross Golan and the vision of co-director and animator John Hwang. Running 65 minutes, The Wrong Man is an experimental animated film with a unique display of visual ideas set to a stellar soundtrack.

The Wrong Man opens with Golan, in grainy rotoscope, singing a lament for a fictionalized man, Duran, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. From there, the film spirals into animated sequences of the life of Duran, brooding in the cell, contemplating the events that led to his jailing, all animated to the track list of Golan’s album.

Strumming in some western flair, The Wrong Man is set in the colors of Reno, Nevada with staunchly defined archetypes of only three characters: Duran, his one-night stand Mariana, and the crooked ex-husband of said one-night stand. Duran is the kind of dude who keeps his head low. Until he comes across the sultry Mariana in a bar. They indulge in one passionate night. She becomes pregnant and asks for child support and he tries to deflect responsibility. Their night ends up having consequences for them when her estranged ex shows up and takes revenge. With charged lyrics, the songs of The Wrong Man tap into the theme of wrongful incarceration, with an operatic premise distanced from reflecting real-life events.

The visuals do their best to accompany the passionate score and lyricism, though I questioned whether they synchronized with urgency. As an animator with a strong portfolio of tour visuals for Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Bruno Mars, Hwang finds a playground in the psychedelia, such as neon outlines of two figures consummating. His work can sway the eye with ingenuous transitions, such as the prison wall tally marks that morph into bars and double as teardrops. But through all the fun kitschiness, where it should count the most, the emotions of his drawn human subjects do come up short. The expressions and mouth movements seem less expressive than the music desires them to be. Duran himself seems a little more placid than how the lyrics claim as he angsts about the events conspiring against him.

The Wrong Man has vision even though it feels a tad short of visionary. Did my ears long to replay the music? Yes. Did I feel the visuals needed more operatic expressionism in telling the tale? Yes. Do I want to see Hwang experiment more with animation? Yes! But even though its visuals concepts need more baking, The Wrong Man is worth the trip.

/Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Caroline Cao is a Houstonian native and writer of movie reviews and essays, Star Wars thoughts, screenplays, plays and fanfiction. She loves herself some oodles of noodles and student discounted Broadway shows.