Greetings again from the darkness. Pre-judging movies is just something that naturally happens for frequent movie watchers, and a pleasant surprise can create a joyous experience. Such is the case with the feature film debut from Sean Brosnan (son of Pierce). With no shortage of entries into the Family Revenge-Action-Thriller genre, it takes something special to standout, and though it targets a (very) limited audience, those that give it a shot will likely be impressed.
It’s the style that we notice from the opening black and white segment, where two brothers are hanging out and joking together as the older one offers up some typical teenager advice on “romance”. An exceptionally brutal and violent attack leaves Chester (Chester Rushing) the older brother dead, and Asher (Gabe White) the younger brother deaf.
We flash forward to a time when Asher is an adult who takes care of his mother, and prepares for revenge against his father. That’s right … the monster of a man responsible for the violence that changed the course of Asher’s life was his own father. The pursuit of revenge is something we’ve seen on screen many times before, but it’s the performances and the look of the film that make this one worth discussing. Joe Anderson stars as the adult Asher, and he conveys wide emotional swings with no dialogue. Instead, we are guided by the narration of his younger self – and this is some of the most poetic narration you’ll find outside of a Terrence Malick movie. As terrific as Anderson is, and as much as we empathize with his character, it’s Gary Stretch (former British boxer) as his father Ivan, who provides a villain so despicable that we find ourselves anxious and rooting for Asher’s violent revenge.
There is mention that serving in Vietnam destroyed Ivan’s soul, but it’s rare to see a man with no conscience and one who is capable of such carnage. Director Brosnan offsets this creature with the black & white flashbacks, and creates a contrast of beauty vs brutality. It really messes with your head and emotions. Marc Shap is the cinematographer and he shows a wonderful eye for both nature (much of the film takes place on the bayou) and personal interactions (both calm and frenzied). The film also makes good use of sound – and no sound, both of which are effective.
Make no mistake, this is not an easy movie to watch, and won’t be to the taste of most. Violent revenge is not really condoned or condemned in the movie, but it seems clear that if you are taking that path, make sure you do it right the first time! Young Asher’s narration tells us that “revenge is not noble, but it’s human” … a sentiment that rings quite true. What’s also true is that Sean Brosnan is an exciting new director to keep an eye on, and maybe the first ever to include a closing credits tribute to Irish playwright John Millington Synge.