Written and directed by Andre Welsh, an Oakland widower’s thirst for justice is rekindled when a local killing is oddly similar to his wife’s unsolved murder from decades ago. Starring: Geoffrey Lower, Daniel Roebuck, Marie Wilson, Drew Seeley, Ron Kaell, Chioke Jelani Clanton, Ahku and Amy Paffrath.
A thriller, noir or crime driven story is surprisingly one of the more difficult choices to pull off for an indie film, because it requires a strong level of atmosphere and that’s hard on a budget but this film handles that challenge well. Its opening builds a slightly dark side, there’s a sinister air in the background and the way that it moves, teases that there’s something more at play and that continues to work well throughout because these filmmakers cleverly didn’t try to overextend themselves. There’s a number of elements to this story where outlandish or over the top moments could have occurred but staying away from that is where this film succeeds.
It’s something that comes across strongly in its characters, Harold Price (Lower) could have been an overtly loud and aggressive character but instead he’s quietly sociopathic, he’s menacingly cold and that was a fantastic choice by Welsh. Similarly with the characters of Jay (Clanton) and Prez (Ahku), they subvert expectations with their astute awareness of how the broken system works and tailoring their criminal choices to play into that game of prejudice and racism. They’re calculated in what they do and say, they’re incredibly observant and genuinely interesting characters, who you’d want to know more about. Those sorts of choices make up for the fact that the script does fall into some clichés from time to time and everything doesn’t quite tie in perfectly but it consistently holds your attention from start to finish with a well paced story that continually has something to add. Although it does feel pandering as it nears its end, handing the audience the resolution on a platter when it should trust that they’ll have figured it out.
The direction is well done, it feeds easily into the darker, slightly seedy and underworld type vibe that the story builds. It also interestingly balances that with a more dramatic vein, and it manages to never spoil the darker side with its sweeter moments and keeps a smooth feel to it. There are some moments where the editing fights against that, particularly nearing its end, a lighter hand and a few less cuts would have keep that smoother feel but it’s a minor issue and one that a lot of films fall foul of in action-driven scenes. There could also be some improvements with the make-up and effects work, some of the violence and injuries are lacking a more realistic feel, though it’s not a consistent problem throughout, it does better in some scenes than others.
Ron Kaell is the central presence that ties everything together here and though his character feels a bit more on the nose than the rest, he gives a solidly sympathetic and strong performance. Lower’s sadistic portrayal of the sociopathic Harold is perfect in how he doesn’t physicalise the anger or aggression too much, it’s restrained and more effective because of that. Clanton and Ahku are a well-chosen duo, they’re convincing friends and portray that idea of being on the same page very well, they let their angers surface slightly more but similarly with Lower, it’s the right choice for their characters.
Disrupted is an entertaining crime-filled ride that smartly doesn’t overplay its hand. It hits a few predictable or clichéd notes but also has some interesting new elements to bring into the mix, particularly the way that it feeds racism and perspective into the story. It impressively holds your attention throughout and while it may not hold any major surprises in store, it’s a well-executed crime thriller, which is not an easy thing to pull off.