Iris (2020)

Writer, director, and cinematographer Christopher Steinberger made his debut film, the short Pendulum, in 2012. Completing seven more shorts since then, he’s now arrived on Amazon Prime with the action crime-drama, Iris, his feature film debut.

How we came about reviewing Iris is just one of those happy accidents. We received a screener for the arthouse zombie fest Necropath, the feature film debut of Joshua Reale. Courtesy of my Law & Order: SVU fandom, I couldn’t help but recognize the film starred Nathan Faudree, who was a recent guest star on the long-running NBC-TV’s with the episode, “Hell’s Kitchen.” And he stars here, as the nefarious Edward West — and he has an interesting interview and hiring process of his sanctioners.

Carson Jobb, a genius software engineer, creates a powerful, new program. But Charlotte Knapp, his ex-girlfriend and government operative who is always up for a little corporate espionage, steals it for a secret organization. But when she realizes her employers will use the software to breach the security of the United States, her and Carson bury their tumultuous past to retrieve the software — without getting themselves killed.

Producing a self-financed short is hard enough. A feature film, even harder. And when a filmmaker decides to eschew the low-budget go-to narratives of horror (such as Necropath) or comedy (see our recent review for Banging Laine) for their debut feature and goes straight to the action-crime drama genre, that filmmaker better know what they’re doing behind the Final Draft and Canon Reds. And Christopher Steinberger has the skills — and then some — in spades . . . and diamonds.

If you’re spent any amount of time at B&S About Movies, you know that I’m a big fan of the prolific, direct-to-DVD oeuvre of writer-director Steven C. Miller with his films Arsenal , Line of Duty, and First Kill. As result of Miller’s pedigree, he’s able to secure larger budgets that attracts the likes of Nicolas Cage, Hayden Christensen, Aaron Eckhart, Claire Forlani, and Bruce Willis. And I really dig the action work coming from Prince Bagdasarian, who really impressed me with Abducted, his own up-against-the-budget actioner.

Obviously, based on the time it took Steinberger to get from a 2013 short to the eventual feature film version of Iris, he doesn’t have a lot of money to work with to get his films made. But you wouldn’t know it. The production values on Iris — considering it’s an espionage film — are of a stellar quality that evades most low-budget indie streamers. And while he couldn’t get the likes of Bruce Willis or Claire Forlani for his leads, the new-to-the-game Patrick M. Kelly and Michelle Hunter are more than up to the challenge in carrying a feature film. The skilled cast is rounded out Mu-Shaka Benson (who I really want to see more of on screen; he was in the zombie anthology Empire State of the Dead, which includes the short version of Necropath), Stephen Long, and Josef Ritter. I believe each of these actors will surely rise up through the casting ranks into bigger roles in larger films and TV series.

When I watched Nightfire, the fifth student-short production by French-born writer-director Brando Benetton that served as his college thesis project shot on a low budget in 14 days — with notable character actor Dylan Baker in the cast — I was truly impressed by the work. And while Christopher Steinberger wasn’t afforded the luxuries of Benetton’s espionage action-drama, I was still equally impressed with the work. It’s only a matter of time before established producers take notice, loosen the purse strings, and Steinberger comes to work with the Dylan Bakers and Nick Cages on his later films.

Stream it. It’s worth the admission price.

You can learn more about the film at the Watchworks Studios Facebook page and director Christopher Steinberger’s official website. You can stream Iris now, on Amazon Prime.

Disclaimer: We didn’t receive a screener or review request from the producers, distributor, or their P.R. firms. We watched the trailer and requested the film from the filmmakers ourselves.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.

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