Dead-end jobs, stifling relationships and the eventual descent into petty crime all add up to the same old “Grind.” The indie drama zeros in on a working-class New Jersey family coming apart at the seams. Production scores no more than a passing grade, with OK tech work, a perfunctory storyline and better-than-average performances. The picture is a theatrical longshot, with modest potential for cable and syndication playoff.
The story centers on Eddie Dolan (Billy Crudup), recently released from prison and back in the bosom of his family. He moves in with his brother Terry (Paul Schulze) and sister-in-law Janey (Adrienne Shelly) and takes a job in the same machine shop that’s employed two generations of Dolans.
On the side, Eddie soups up old cars and goes drag racing on weekends.
The plot is rather banal, and its dramatic twists don’t improve matters. Eddie and Janey become romantically entangled while Terry gets deeper and deeper into trouble with a carjacking ring he works for on the side.
To its credit, the film stops short of ending it all in a hail of bullets. But that’s about the only unexpected turn of events. Happenstance, rather than observation, leads Terry to painfully confront the dalliance under his nose. He schemes to betray his brother, but in the end, blood ties unite the siblings and the trio continue down the road of life.
While director and co-writer Chris Kentis’ debut feature is not distinctive visually or more than mildly intriguing dramatically, neither is it offensive or inept.
As with so many modest indie efforts, “Grind” is largely made watchable thanks to a hard-working cast. Particularly astute here are Shelly, who plays nicely against her waifish physical type, and newcomer Crudup, a star in the making.
Ultimately, the film is undone by its lack of focus. It drifts aimlessly in hopes that an onscreen character will take charge of the tiller, and, as the end credits roll, the story simply grinds to a halt.