A title heavy with religious portent and seasonal overtones does no favors for "The Fall."

A title heavy with religious portent and seasonal overtones does no favors for “The Fall,” an unconvincing if not exactly unwatchable tale of two polar-opposite brothers. Contrived dramatic fireworks ignite when a junkie is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, leaving his more responsible sibling to rescue him yet again — only this time, he doesn’t want to be rescued. (If he did, there’d be no movie.) A scenario that barely works on paper becomes doubly ludicrous onscreen in John Krueger’s writing-directing debut, which opens Oct. 30 for a quick Los Angeles run through Laemmle Theaters.

In one of those pat ironies more beloved by screenwriters than by real life, Tony Jakubiak (Benny Ciaramello) is a thuggish ne’er-do-well, while his brother, Frank (Scott Kinworthy), is an ambitious district attorney on his way to becoming “the youngest governor in history” (the script neglects to mention “and also the most photogenic”). When a purse-snatcher stabs a priest to death outside a church one night, Tony is wrongly pegged as the culprit. Frank, who’s used to making sacrifices for his brother, sidelines his gubernatorial aspirations to defend Tony, to the irritation of Frank’s steely Lady Macbeth of a wife (Erica Shaffer).

A scene of Tony having shadowy, vaguely satanic-looking sex with an unseen figure at the time of the murder makes it clear he’s not guilty, but for cryptic reasons, he won’t disclose his alibi to anyone, preferring to rot in jail. Somehow this is all connected with brief, autumnal flashbacks of young Frank and young Tony, looming over a slain playmate; then again, it might also be related to that time Frank walked in on Tony having sex with a priest.

The real question, though, is whether two brothers in fact or fiction have ever shared such a luridly self-involved history. Frank and Tony’s farfetched past keeps barging in on their equally farfetched present, and amid such a stream of rank-and-file implausibilities, caring ceases to be much of an option, though flashes of nudity and splashes of blood (usually self-drawn) do keep the story at a salacious simmer.

Krueger seems overly fond of distinguishing his supporting characters with a weird trait or affliction; witness the blind judge (William Devane) and Tony’s disfigured g.f. (Erica Hoag). And then there’s Tony’s next-door cellmate, Eric (Peter Cilella), a raving, drug-pushing psychopath who seems to have been carted in from a completely different movie (no more believable than this one).

Perfs are somewhat stiff yet admirably committed under the circumstances; Kinworthy and Ciaramello are given ample opportunities to chew the (not bad) scenery as they rage and howl at the injustice of it all. Marcel Victor Prefontaine’s production design sports some intriguing, borderline-surreal touches, and tech credits overall are accomplished.

The Fall

Production

A Dangerous Wounded Animal presentation. Produced by Marcienne Friesland, Persis Koch. Executive producers, John Krueger, Valerie Schadt. Directed, written by John Krueger.

Crew

Camera (color), Marco Cappetta; editor, Derek Seelig; music, Richard Druz, Max Druz; production designer, Marcel Victor Prefontaine; art director, Mary Benitez; costume designers, Emma Potter, Camille Jumelle; sound (Dolby Digital), Nick Smeloff Jr., Monty Buckles, Jack "Wes" Spark, Tony Bollas; supervising sound editor, Ben Zarai; sound designer, Sean Gray; re-recording mixers, David Barber, Zarai; digital visual effects, Liquidimages; line producer, Caryn Shuken; assistant directors, Jason Durdon, Yagiz Alp Akaydin, Jim Simone; casting, Lynne Quirion, Claire Simon. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Oct. 28, 2009. New U.S. release. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Benny Ciaramello, Peter Cilella, William Devane, Erica Hoag, Scott Kinworthy, Erica Shaffer.
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