This film was originally reviewed in October 2020 as part of our London Film Festival coverage.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets sets out to break the rules of cinema. Why do we have to distinguish between documentaries and other genres? Why do we deem some performances truthful and not others? Why should we clean our camera lenses? While the Ross brothers look to refine and redefine this liminal frontier of filmmaking, they certainly disprove at least one rule. In vino veritas, my ass.

Say it with me, folks: “Drunk people are not as fun, funny or insightful as they think they are.” Sadly, as Bloody Nose rubs out the line between fact and fiction, the line between what is interesting and isn’t gets marked clearly in sharpie. The old adage that the more fun people had making a movie, the less fun you’ll have watching it may never be truer than two days of partying on camera. At least if you were actually there to be droned at, hit on or punched you could have a drink to distract you. 

That said, it’s an achievement, cultivating such a staggering sense of place—a fly on the wall among barflies going off the wall. The fug in the air is so tangible, giving credibility to these semi-real stories, slurred from the bottom of a glass. But questions of authenticity do get in the way; the Roaring 20s bar is fictional, as is its closing, the regulars cast and shipped in from real Vegas watering holes. This element of manufacture hinders the emotional impact of these stories, actors or not. 

Those familiar with closing time might find that Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets brings back memories of wild nights; for others, it’s just another reminder that nothing worthwhile happens after 2am. Don’t stay for last call—get chips on the way home and eat them in bed. 



CAST: Peter Elwell, Michael Martin, Shay Walker

DIRECTORS: Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross

SYNOPSIS: A look at the final moments of a Las Vegas dive bar called The Roaring 20s.