Conviction and skill are expended on a familiar storyline in "December Ends." Watchable if unmemorable results are still pretty impressive considering writer-director Lee Krieger made it during a semester break as a 21-year-old college student. Tale of a conflicted good kid working as an upper-shelf Manhattan drug courier takes too long heading in predictable directions.

Conviction and skill are expended on a familiar storyline in “December Ends.” Watchable if unmemorable results are still pretty impressive considering writer-director Lee Krieger made it during a semester break as a 21-year-old college student. Tale of a conflicted good kid working as an upper-shelf Manhattan drug courier takes too long heading in predictable directions. Yet deftly handled perfs, character dynamics and urban atmosphere make for a promising debut that, with some trimming, could attract modest cable and DVD exposure.

Introverted Chris’ (Josh Janowicz) youth ended a few months previous when his beloved mother died, pushing dad (Bill Buell) into alcoholic depression. To support them both, Chris has dropped out of school, barely eking by on bookstore clerkdom. Brash cousin Brian (a winning Barrett James) thinks he’s doing a favor by hooking him up with a lucrative delivery job for yuppie dealer Hayden (Justin Matthews). But Hayden’s own escalating drug problems, not to mention the attraction between his artist g.f. (Alex Thayer) and Chris, spell trouble. Better at low-key relationship scenes than action/suspense, pic climaxes somewhat gratuitously. But nicely crafted effort remains more poignant than exploitative.

December Ends

Production

An Autumn Entertainment production. Produced by Tim Harms, Trevor Jones, Lee Tolan Krieger. Executive producer, Jodi Friedman. Co-producer, Lesley-Anne Morrison. Directed, written by Lee Toland Krieger.

Crew

Camera (color, Sony HD-cam), Daniel S. Haas; editor, Gino Roy; music, the Sweet Revenge; production designer, Tommaso Ortino. Reviewed at San Francisco Indiefest, Feb. 3, 2006. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Josh Janowicz, Alex Thayer, Justin Matthews, Jacob Reynolds, Bryant Botero, Bill Buell, Barrett James, Scott Brandon, Amanda Clayton, Amy Martinson.
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