My favourite director-actor collaboration has got to be Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke. These two have worked together on a total of eight films, the most notable ones being Boyhood (2014) and the Before trilogy. Tape is a film adaptation of a play by Stephen Belber which is set in a motel room and involves only three characters. It appears to be filmed through a camcorder all the way through and Linklater has not tried to completely deviate the filming from the set up of a play. In fact it almost seems like we are watching a play which has been filmed from different viewpoints by members of the audience. The shots are shaky and the camera angles are awkward, which both work to create the intimate atmosphere of the film.
Ethan Hawke plays Vince, a typical drug-dealing bad boy with ‘violent tendencies’ who is alone in the motel room, stripped down to his boxers. Soon into the first few minutes we meet Jon (Robert Sean Leonard), his high school friend from 10 years ago.
As the story unfolds we start to discern the relationship between Vince and Jon. Jon is a filmmaker who has managed to achieve small success after high school. Vince makes a living selling drugs to chief firemen which, according to him, qualifies him as a ‘fireman’. Jon talks down to Vince from his moral high ground in a condescending manner. At first this seems justified; after all Jon is the law-abiding, politically correct of the two, while Vince is overtly rude and obnoxious and finds a way to justify his criminal tendencies.
They are two friends who are reuniting for the premiere of Jon’s new film at a festival in Michigan. As the dialogue continues we start to realise that this is not at all the reason why Vince has come all this way to meet Jon. Vince seamlessly manages to change the topic of conversation to his ex-girlfriend Amy (Uma Thurman) whom he broke up with in high-school. It becomes clear that shortly after the break-up she was involved with Jon. Later on, Jon admits to an awful act he committed in high school and is foolishly oblivious to the fact that his confession is being taped. Once Vince reveals this, he tells John that he has also invited Amy to join them, leaving him in utter panic. However, the scene of John’s retribution we anticipate upon Amy’s arrival might come to us as quite of a shock.