Review: Shadows

Written and directed by Michael Matteo Rossi, a young low-level drug dealer is reunited with his estranged mom and uncle to protect him when a ruthless drug kingpin puts a hit on him. Starring: Krista Allen, Francis Capra, Emelina Adams, Vernon Wells, Rachel Alig, David Labrava, Eve Mauro, Eric Etebari, Jazsmin Lewis, Cathy Baron and Rahart Adams.

A huge staple of crime cinema is characters getting in over their heads, stepping into a situation before really knowing how far it goes and that’s exactly what you get with Shadows. It’s the type of story that does follow a certain pattern but adds enough to keep it original, which is a good formula for a film that’s consistently entertaining throughout. It nicely takes a few risks and throws in a few harsh choices which help keep things interesting. It does hit upon a few cliches along the way but it’s a difficult thing to avoid with this type of cinema, it’s well travelled but they’re minor enough not to become a problem.

It moves a little slowly as it enters its finale and there is a transition to its focus, shifting over its lead to another character which doesn’t entirely feel successful. Thematically it works, creating a bigger backstory and adding extra layers but it simultaneously feels like it forgets about its other characters who had taken a larger role up until then. There are also a number of characters who feel fairly extraneous, particularly those going for an especially sleazy feel, you can see why they’re there but it also feels like time that could be better spent elsewhere.

With this type of action and crime blend, one of the elements which is decidedly difficult to pull off is any feel of being sincere or genuine, but Shadows does surprisingly well. There are those more stereotypical moments but it holds enough of an edge of grit to keep things grounded. Another reason is because it doesn’t try to be too flashy, a potential pitfall for any indie flick which attempts to do too much on a budget but again, Michael Matteo Rossi avoids that here. There’s a variety to his direction and while it may throw in the occasional overly close shot, it is solid throughout.

The only weak point which stands out is the sound mixing, in any film that’s going to have gun play, you really have to punch that sound through to hold onto its realism and you don’t get that. However its use of violence is well done, it can be more than expected at times but it never becomes truly gruesome and doesn’t rely on effects too heavily. Although it does make some fairly dark choices with its story and it would have been great to see it embrace that even further but the tone of the direction and cinematography can’t quite match that. It has the potential for something truly harsh but it keeps its feet more in the entertaining arena than devilish.

The performances can be a bit of a mixed bag on the whole but when looking at purely Krista Allen, Francis Capra, Eric Etebari, Rachel Alig and Rahart Adams who have the biggest roles, it’s a different story. They all bring a great amount of personality, there isn’t the time to fully flesh out all of their characters but they’re individual and each have their own charm or draw. It’s a very varied bunch with a few loud or outlandish personalities thrown in along the way.

Shadows takes a classic plot of crime cinema and adds its own spin. It’s a great choice for any dedicated fans of crime-action flicks, it’s entertaining throughout and manages to feel original and genuine. There are a few flaws along the way, characters going over the top, missing out on a sharp sound and making a slightly messy transition in its latter scenes but it still works well.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Make your own verdict by checking it out on iTunes, Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, Microsoft & Verizon Fios TV

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