Elliptical to the point of abstraction, “Booster” is an austere and stripped-to-essentials indie that suggests a Boston crime drama such as “The Town” or “Monument Ave.” as reimagined by Robert Bresson. The abbreviated running time and overall paucity of commercial elements likely will keep this caper relegated to the fest circuit, though writer-director Matt Ruskin and lead player Nico Stone might use it as a calling card for mainstream gigs.
Simon (Stone) is a professional shoplifter who grapples with a tough choice when his career-criminal brother (Brian McGrail) is arrested for armed robbery. The brother faces serious prison time unless someone else — specifically, Simon — can pull a few similar heists to suggest an alternate suspect.
Trouble is, Simon fears he lacks the skill set and sufficient nerve to function under pressure as a stick-up artist, even when he’s required to do nothing more than imitate his brother’s m.o. of wearing a mask and brandishing a gun while robbing customers at Laundromats.
Throughout most of its fleeting span, “Booster” shifts between Simon’s hazily defined underworld activities — for an extended period, he and his best buddy (Adam Du Paul) operate as delivery men of some sort — and his improbable budding romance with a lovely sales clerk (Kristen Dougherty) who spots him shoplifting at her store.
Seymour Cassel pops up sporadically as an aged ex-criminal who’s marking time at the nursing home where Simon visits his senile grandmother. The veteran actor has relatively little to do, but he’s ineffably affecting as his character sounds notes of regret that Simon increasingly interprets as cautionary advice.
Pic generates some slow-simmering suspense as Stone (who won a SXSW award for his performance) subtly conveys Simon’s immobilizing frustration as he finds himself unable to either firmly reject his brother’s demand for help or fully commit to a crime spree that might result in his own arrest.
The final scene is ambiguously open-ended, in keeping with the narrative style of the rest of “Booster,” with a touch of absurdity that comes off as altogether apt. Tech values are adequate.