LFF 2020: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets – Review

Release Date – 1st January 2021, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 38 minutes, Director – Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross

The regular patrons of a Las Vegas bar meet throughout the day and night to drink up and say goodbye to their beloved meeting place on its final day

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is an interesting experiment. Part-documentary, part-fiction the film takes a fly-on-the-wall view at the final day of a Las Vegas bar, The Roaring 20s, and the regular patrons that come to drown their sorrows at this event in the booze that it sells. However, The Roaring 20s is still a very much open bar in New Orleans, and while the conversations are improvised they are held by street-cast actors aware of the fact that they are being filmed. From the very start ’til the very end of the day the booze flows and the various characters get increasingly intoxicated throughout, allowing for some more open, although deeply slurred, conversations.

This is a film that shows that a bar truly is where everybody knows your name. It’s a place where people go for friendship, escape and companionship. Where they both leave their cares and worries and feel free to release them in emotional conversations. People openly give back advice, honest words such as “I am somebody you hang out with at a bar, I am not your family!” And yet, most of all, this is a film about a group of people getting absolutely smashed. In each frame you can practically smell the alcohol washing throughout the characters and the bar they live in for the day. The setting is illuminated by cheap neon and LED lights of all different colours. Flooding the room with a reddish, purple hue. Even the exterior scenes in the car park outside the main building seem to be soaked in the same style.

Yet, the most enjoyable moments of the film aren’t those dwelling on the personal stories and discussions that you overhear. It’s the moments where everyone seems to have come together around the simplest of things just to have a good time. In the opening half hour as the day has just started and the early-morning drinkers and sentimentalists wander in they rejoice in choruses, led by the barman on guitar – “he’s almost as good as the jukebox” someone claims – of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler (a song which echoes throughout the film as a plaintive reminder as to why everyone has gathered). The crowd innocently gazing at a small box-TV screen displaying a slightly static picture of Jeopardy and occasionally shouting out the answers also serves as a highlight. The film feels honest and the conversations certainly don’t feel improvised, they feel genuine.

While some moments do seem to be somewhat repetitive. As the night arrives and the early morning hours loom the film, much like the drunken figures it shows, begins to stagger and slow down as it has more hours still to show and seems to want to show every detail of the closing moments of the bar that it shows. The customers may not quite have time to sober up to properly say goodbye to their favourite drinking place but there’s plenty of time for the viewers to do so with the slightly drawn out ending. The feeling does set in eventually that this may have potentially worked better as a 45 minute short film. However, for what the film does offer there’s enough cheer and interesting observed conversations to keep things, aside from the alcohol, flowing.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is absolutely soaked in booze. It comes with plenty of engaging observations within the improvised dialogue but a struggle to sober up does lead to some staggering and repetition.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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