Peter Bogdanovich’s daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich makes her directorial debut in this crime thriller about two brothers struggling to cope with their troubled father and get mixed up in crime as they try to make a better life for themselves. The movie has a some interesting ideas but unfortunately does not follow them up which leads to a generic crime thriller.
Two brothers Samuel (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Beckett (Luke Kleintank) are struggling to cope with their father, Warren (Sebastian Roché), who has gambling and drinking problems. Samuel spends his days on the streets reciting Shakespeare, thanks to his home-schooling from Warren, who is also a ‘once master of the arts’. Samuel’s only escape is reading the comic-book ‘Phantom Halo’ much to the disapproval of Warren. Beckett, the criminal brother, mingles in the crowd while Samuel performs pick pocketing in order to pay the bills. Meanwhile, Warren has mounted up debts with one a local money lender who is now leaning on the family for the money he is owed.
Beckett meets up with an old friend, Larry, from his days spent in juvenile detention center and the two come up with a get rich quick scheme involving counterfeit money. Beckett soon meets, and falls for Larry’s mum who is also trapped in her current life. Beckett and Larry quickly make some stupid decisions which lead them into trouble with another local criminal, Smashmouth. All these strands lead to one big Mexican standoff.
The story promised much from the opening scenes. By far the most interesting of the characters was Samuel who was excellently portrayed by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. The character was complex with his unique Shakespearean knowledge and an equally unique relationship with his father, also his obsession with the Phantom Halo comic-book and how he uses this to escape from his current life. However, the story soon focuses in on Beckett, which is a far more two dimensional character with a generic story of the criminal trying to pull off one more scam to save his life. The way which this unfolds is not particularly bad, but doesn’t bring anything new to the table, which is a bit of a shame when the characters and the story showed a lot of promise.
The subplot romance between Beckett and Larry’s mum is predictable but also quite a random one. It is strange enough for a Mum to fall for one of her son’s friends but this plot does not really bring anything to the table, it doesn’t really have much of a purpose and does not really do a lot to drive the story forward.
Antonia Bogdanovich gives us a solid picture for her first outing with some excellent ideas from a screenplay she wrote with Anne Heffron, based on Boganovich’s short film – ‘My Left Hand Man’. I have a feeling they wanted to play this safe with it being her first picture, rather than taking the more daring and interesting root. Unfortunately the safe story makes it fall into generic territory of a story we have seen many times before. What makes the story unique is soon put to one side in favor of a tried and tested formula.
The cast are all strong, in particular Thomas Brodie-Sangster does an excellent job as Samuel and in my opinion is strongly under-used, I felt that he should have been the focus and carried the movie forward. Luke Kleintank falls in line as the ‘stronger older brother trying to hold the family together character’, being no fault of his own, he plays the role well, but as I mentioned earlier, the character is two dimensional. Tobin Bell (Saw) plays the role of Smashmouth and I thought I should mention him as I really enjoyed his character (or what little we got to see of him) Bell did an excellent job which I think is a mixture of good writing and acting to bring this character to life.
Overall I think this movie is a bit of a missed opportunity. It had some great ideas and some very interesting characters that would have been nice to explore further but instead opted to focus on the ‘all too predictable’ story-line that has been used many times before.