Review: Fraud

Directed by Zen Pace and written by lead actress Dana Aliya Levinson, a petty credit card fraudster finds her life forever changed when her latest target surprises her with an unforeseen proposition that leaves her questioning who she wants to be. Also starring: Babak Tafti, Mike Meth and Riley Thomas.

The concept of Fraud is a great one, a classic turning of the tables, a criminal having their misdeeds lead them into a vulnerable position. Its bones work very well but unfortunately the way in which it’s told, doesn’t work as well. There’s a mix of different tones and themes at work, blending together thriller with drama and romance, there’s a lot going on and it’s not all in connected fashion. The way that the story escalates is slightly jarring and the use of an overt narration over the top feels heavy handed. It’s struggling to build a clear goal or destination, and the one that it ultimately does go with feels like this story is only just beginning, it’s most interesting consequences are yet to come.

However, it is consistently well shot throughout, it has a stylish look right from the first frame. It has a great amount of colour and takes its cue from the criminal themes of its story, adding an edge of darkness. It’s extremely well done to highlight how easily Dana Aliya Levinson as Shira can adapt her visage to fool people, also making a hugely relevant point about how Trans people face a lot of preconceptions and are often misjudged by the public. It’s only a shame that the story isn’t working as cohesively as the aesthetic, had the two come together more seamlessly, it could have pushed Fraud even further.

Dana Aliya Levinson leads the film well, she creates an interesting character and makes it clear that there are a number of issues that led to her criminal dealings without needing to openly discuss them. She has a likeable quality and when she’s then paired with Babak Tafti her charm is strengthened by his. The two have a strong chemistry, there’s a sly or devious quality to the way that they interact which is intriguing and satisfying to watch. While they do make for a romantic couple, their romance does feel pushed more for story purposes than a natural progression. Although, with it feeling more like the beginning of a larger story, it does leave you wanting to see more from them.

Fraud is stylishly shot with a great concept and some unexpected layers. It may be trying to squeeze in a bit too much in its short time but it does hold an enticing combination. Dana Aliya Levinson and Babak Tafti make a pretty perfect pair, they have a connection that feels smart, seductive and sly. Apart from a couple of small exceptions, the style feels very modern and sleek and it’s used effectively to reflect the elicit nature of the story.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Showing at Tribeca Film Festival from June 10th to 19th

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