This film is one that has faced difficulty in its creation, it has taken 8 or 9 years to finally get its day on our screens and the attention its received is way too little which is why you may be unfamiliar but let me familiarise you with it a little. Here’s the essentials, Anthony Michael Hall takes the lead and gives us Tom Fiorini land developer and overall man with a gigantic love of himself (as well as his wife and job but in what order it’s unclear), who seems to have the perfect life until one small issue of delayed work causes a confrontation between foreman Matt (Jamie Harrold: Erin Brockovich, Natural Born Killers) and framer/ex-con Tony (Chris Penn). When Matt fails to show up for work, all eyes turn to Tony with the violent temper and history of criminal behaviour, and you realise just how easy it is to make an assumption about someone and the consequences that can occur.
With a lot happening in a small space, the film gives a real focus on the characters each individually giving them a strong presence, starting with Tom (Hall) who is strangely like-able though trying hard not to be. A man who knows how much he has and will readily throw it in the face of anyone who has less, we probably really shouldn’t like him and yet the small moments make him more relate-able and maybe his giant ego isn’t all there is to him. Helping with this is Elisabeth Röhm (American Hustle, Law & Order) playing his wife Rebecca who instead of being a simple trophy wife is actually given some personality which is a great example of how the film gives that focus on its characters. Instead of the lazy choice of just accepting because they are husband and wife there’s some sort of connection there, and skipping to focus on the more dark elements, the evidence of their marriage is actually handed to you nicely adding to the tone of the film.
On the other side of things there’s Penn playing Tony our resident tough guy, though even tough guys seem pretty normal when they’re brought back down by their pregnant wives. Again it’s someone you can’t decide whether you want to side with him, he may be an ex-con with a temper and predisposed to violence but isn’t he really just the guy who wants to provide for his wife and child? It’s a sad state of affairs that Penn passed away towards the end of filming and it’s hard to say how his role would have been impacted given more time but as it stands he is most definitely convincing as the man you’d make an assumption about while barely knowing him. Then there’s the sheriff (Leo Burmester), the cop who you never know how seriously they take their job (a particularly great physical example of this is a talking policeman cookie jar in his office). Burmester does a good job of making sure the audience for the first half has no idea where he’s really coming from, it may be a little over the top in moments but this easily falls more into the film’s more comedic elements. The other part of that would be your local criminal, King (Tony Danza), which for spoilers sake I will not elaborate but keep your eye on him.
The casual way in which this film moves from construction and chit-chat to violence and fear is an impressively seamless transition almost as if this were just something happening a few streets over but you just don’t know about it. The story is engaging and clever, the only real comment on it I would make is I would have liked to have seen the comic book element woven more definitively throughout the film to push it towards strongly being a dark comedy rather than it edging over to a thriller. Personally I would describe it as almost combination of Harold and Maude/Mystic River, which to me is a great compliment, making a dark story feel much less grim and gritty but more about how people react. The fact that this film has such limited attention and coverage is disappointing as there is certainly an audience out there to enjoy it who just don’t know it’s there. I definitely recommend it and don’t know what director Thomas Farone’s next project is going to be but I will certainly be posting an update when I find out.