This downbeat account of the last day in the life of a small-time suburban hood boasts above-average cinematography and an attractive cast, especially given its ultra-low budget. But "loser's" unappealing characters, limp dialogue and leaden performances will drastically limit commercial prospects, even among the most avid indie enthusiasts.

This downbeat account of the last day in the life of a small-time suburban hood boasts above-average cinematography and an attractive cast, especially given its ultra-low budget. But “loser’s” unappealing characters, limp dialogue and leaden performances will drastically limit commercial prospects, even among the most avid indie enthusiasts.

Pic opens with the drive-by shooting of the title character, Jimmy Ray (writer-director Kirk Harris), who spends the remainder of the film bleeding to death while reflecting on the events that led to his murder.

In flashbacks, we learn that Jimmy, an unemployed stoner living with his brother and their widowed father in a working-class Southern California town, has been on a downward spiral since the drug-related death of a childhood friend. He spends his days getting high, pulling off the odd carjacking and emotionally tormenting his beautiful, sweet girlfriend, Alyssha (Peta Wilson). Jimmy’s most immediate problem, however, is the $ 800 he owes a local cocaine dealer for drugs he was supposed to sell but instead used himself.

Jimmy manages to borrow and steal nearly all the money he owes, but before he can pay off his debt, he inexplicably picks a fight with the dealer and beats him to a pulp, all but sealing his own fate.

Jimmy’s last chance is to ask his saintly brother to intervene, but for some unexplained reason he can’t bring himself to tell his brother what’s going on. Unfortunately, he shows no such hesitation about sharing his innermost thoughts with the audience. His lugubrious v.o. is a stream of warmed-over existential platitudes, such as, “Nobody appreciates life until it’s taken away from them,” and “Maybe we’re all outsiders.”

In an attempt to explain Jimmy’s self-destructive ways, pic offers glimpses of his father, a child-abusing, alcoholic, racist Vietnam vet portrayed with little conviction by Norman Saleet.

But the abuse defense is not likely to sway audience members in Jimmy’s — or the film’s — favor. Even if one could get past his antisocial behavior, Jimmy’s incessant narration is so cloyingly self-pitying (at one point he actually says, “Why me, God?”), that one can’t help but hope his inevitable last breath will come soon.

Reportedly produced for less than $ 40,000, the film is photographed in an economical yet visually intriguing style in 35mm by Kent Wakeford (“Mean Streets”). Other tech elements are more in line with pic’s shoestring budget.

“Loser’s” score consists entirely of decent, if unmemorable, songs from grunge bands including the Blackeyed Susans, Adolescents and Dharma Bums.

Loser

Production

An Edge Cinema release of a Don't Count Me Out production. (International sales: Circa Entertainment.) Produced by Peter Baxter. Executive producers, Jonathan Chaus, Tina Kuykendall. Directed, written by Kirk Harris.

Crew

Camera (color), Kent Wakeford; editor, Adam Pertofsky; art direction, Fred Cisterna, Franca Cerghini; sound (Dolby), Bob Sheridan; associate producers, Jack Rubio, Adam Pertofsky; assistant director, Kennedy Taylor; casting, Sheila Thompson, Barbara Bersell, Tom Wright. Reviewed at Laemmle Royal Theatre, L.A., March 22, 1996. Running time: 85 min.

With

Jimmy Ray - Kirk Harris
Brandon Ray - Jonathan Chaus
Nick Ray - Norman Saleet
Alyssha Rourke - Peta Wilson
Ford Davis - Jack Rubio
Erica Milestone - Kim Antepenko
Chris Hollins - David Michael
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more