Review: “Oberst is cold as ice”

ASSASSINS is a short film that inspired a feature film. The feature is set for a 2016 releaseHere’s the short, with Bill Oberst Jr. as the character he reprises in the feature. Mike Bonomo directed both: 

Mike Thomas at reviewed it:

Movie Review by Mike

Assassins: You Have the Gun, I Have the Power

Favorite Movie Quote: “Is that it?”

“Sometimes, it’s just the words.

Nathan (Bill Oberst, Jr., in an uncharacteristic three-piece suit), walks in on Walter (Vincente DiSanti), who is sitting in the bathroom, definitely distraught. What follows when they meet at the kitchen table is a demonstration that a gun does not give you power.

Nathan, though apparently weaponless (we know he’s not – we see his gun), with just words, forces Walter to remove the gun from his intruder’s head. Nathan then strikes up a conversation correlating sex and death. He explains, in measured tones, using volume to make his point, how reality never meets expectations. Again, he has the power.

In your gut you know one of them will be dead by the end, but you’re not entirely sure if Walter wiil “man up” in an act of desperation, or relinquish the power to Nathan, as he has for the entire short.

Roll Credits.

ASSASSINS is my very favorite genre of drama – the cat-and-mouse two-person dialogue. No explosions, no special effects, no nudity (two dudes – thank God!), just two persons, one victim, one victimizer. Bill Oberst, Jr., the one man who you would never want to meet in a dark alley, is cold-as-ice Nathan, the seasoned veteran, far more experienced than his “charge.” Vincente DiSante is perfect as the pitiful/pitiable Walter, the grasshopper to Nathan’s teacher. The dialogue is more a monologue, with Walter chiming in when he has the strength to muster up a response. We see flashbacks of Walter inaugural hit, a crime of passion, not of professionalism. we’re not entirely sure if Nathan was there to teach him, or teach him a lesson. It’s a sad, tense tale, almost like dropping a mouse on a hot plate, and watching him squirm. The Victim (Citlyn Sabrio), seen only in flashbacks, was the assumed “hit.” You try to find the twist, but there is really none. This was a very linear tale told in camera angles, close-ups and the coldest monologue I’ve heard in a long time.

As unaccustomed as I am to reviewing shorts, my usual grading system is shot to hell (sorry, bad pun). Instead, I’ll strongly recommend you take 10 minutes out of your life and enjoy some solid, no-gimmicks acting. Once this short is available, any fan of Bill Oberst, Jr. will see a side of him that is a refreshing change of pace. This is his movie, and every thing else is scenery.”


Los Angeles Review: Oberst’s Bradbury performance “Magical…not to be missed.”

Los Angeles Review: Ray Bradbury’s Pillar Of Fire

Reviewed by Michael J.W. Thomas

Ray Bradbury’s ‘Pillar of Fire’ read with permission and performed by Bill Oberst Jr.

“He came out of the earth, hating. Hate was his father; hate was his mother.” 


You walk into the theater. The stage is bare; no scenery, no art, no props. As you adjust yourself to the surroundings, you then notice a …thing… in the middle of the bare stage. It doesn’t move, not even an inch. After a very long time, you start to notice movement.

From a seemingly crumpled heap of rags, a man emerges, or what you think is a man. It is contorted, as if in anguish, rising, slowly, painfully, untangling the wreck of his arms and legs, growling unintelligibly at first, then finally forming words. Words of pain, words of anger, words of hate.

His name is William Lantry, the year is 2349, and he has risen from the grave, 400 years dead. An alien world greets him, devoid of fear, of imagination; people no longer fear the dark.

And William Lantry hates that.

“Pillar of Fire,” a short story recitative by the late legendary writer Ray Bradbury, is a tale of a man out of his time. Lon Chaney Award and Emmy® winner Bill Oberst, Jr. is William Lantry, the sole player in this recitative. No stranger to the solo performance (“JFK,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” “A Tribute to Lewis Grizzard”), Oberst commands the stage. In his film career, many have commented that when Bill enters the scene, everyone else in the film virtually disappears; it becomes “The Bill Oberst Jr. Show.”

Now, here, physically alone, on a bare stage, Oberst grabs your attention, figuratively grabbing the audience by the throat and staring you down. Of all the aspects of this recitative (though, in truth, calling his performance a recitative is like calling “Odette’s Dance” from “Swan Lake” a walk through a grocery store) is Oberst’s total concentration on the character.

The stage is no larger than a studio apartment; only a footstep separates, Bill from the audience. Yet, his performance never breaks the “fourth wall,” even when some clown in the front row is texting right in front of him. And though that “fourth wall’ is firmly in place, he drags the audience into his pathetic, wretched world.

Bill Oberst Jr - Ray Bradbury's "Pillar of Fire"
Bill Oberst Jr – Ray Bradbury’s “Pillar of Fire”

His performance is indeed magical; part storyteller, part zombie, part dancer, part magician, part comic, Oberst moves around that tiny stage, pulling the few props he uses during the performance virtually out of thin air, changing costumes without your noticing it, and never, not even once, leaving the audience’s line of vision. The short (50 minutes) performance flies by at a dizzying pace.

Credit also must be given to the show’s technical director, Mark McClain Wilson, who complements Oberst’s performance, with his subtle lighting moods through the performance, and also the disembodied voices that act as a second player to Oberst’s soliloquy, as he performs the dual role of narrator and actor.

Those who only knew Oberst as the unofficial “King of Indie Cinema Horror,” are depriving themselves of a large facet of Oberst’s repertoire, if any one of these live performances, in particular, “Pillar of Fire,” is not part of your Bill Oberst Jr. experience.

There are only three performances left at the Hudson Theatres (Hudson Guild) 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California, June 11th, and the following two Thursdays. Live horror, Bill Oberst-style, is an experience not to be missed!

“Pillar of Fire” is read with the permission of Don Congdon Associates, Inc. on behalf of Ray Bradbury Enterprises, Inc. Copyright 1948 Love Romances, Inc.  – Michael J.W. Thomas

Film Review: “Oberst channels Harvey Keitel”

ASSASSINS is a short film that inspired a feature film. The feature is set for a 2016 releaseHere’s the short, with Bill Oberst Jr. as the character he reprises in the feature. Mike Bonomo directed both: 

Ken Kastenhuber reviewed the short for McBastard’s Mausoleum:


“A short film. It sounds pretty easy, right? Pumping out a compressed little story in an abbreviated form with a beginning, middle and an end that’s coherent and intriguing… wait, that actually sounds kind of excruciating now that I think about it. Well thankfully for you there’s short subject directors like Michael Bonomo who fully understand what it takes to make not just a great short film but just a great film, period..

The filmmaker’s sixth short film ASSASSINS is a tale of the fateful meeting of two hitmen; the seasoned, steely-eyed pro Nathan (Bill Oberst Jr., DISMAL) and the newbie Walter (Vicente Disanti) who may just not be cut out for this line of work. Without spoiling the ten minute film too much Walter is a novice hitman whose hit has goes horribly awry. Nathan is then called in to clean-up the mess one way or the other, well there you go.

Right from the get go the film is a well-directed, taut and tense beast, it’s a pretty slick short with high production value, attractive cinematography and lighting, tight editing and a low-key but effective score from Kristen Baum (THE BOOK OF ELI).

When it was all over and done with I definitely wanted more in the best possible way, it maintained it’s mystery while revealing just enough, which is pretty impressive for a ten minute film. I was left with lingering flavors of Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL and a few choice bits of Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION as Oberst seemingly channels some of Harvey Keitel’s “The Wolf” from that film, the seasoned professional sent in to clean things up.

High marks to this tense thriller from Michael Bonomo, be sure check out his website at the link below where you can watch a few of his previous short films. The film is not yet available online as Bonomo will be travelling the film on the festival circuit quite soon. Also be sure to check out Bill Oberst Jr. over at the wickedly interactive Facebook app,  Take This Lollipop, a truly unnerving social media mindfuck that must be experienced first hand to fully appreciate.”