Low-budget teen drama about “white trash” guys in rural Florida scores a direct hit until the last reel. Tyro writer-director Mark Anthony Galluzzo offers an impressive first effort. Fest opportunities should abound, with limited arthouse breaks a strong possibility.
The film is essentially the story of Anthony (Eric Michael Cole), who, in film’s prologue, witnesses the pointless hunting death of a friend at the hands of a 10-year-old. He and another friend, Sunny (Jeremy Sisto), rarely talk about it, but it is clear both are marked by the experience. For Sunny, the trauma renders his life is meaningless, and he figures he might as well take whatever pleasures he can get for as long as he can. For Anthony, who has won a high school writing prize, the incident provokes him to question what choices he has.
The good-boy/bad-boy dichotomy is cliched, but Galluzzo makes sure the two characters’ similarities are as strong as their differences. Indeed, Anthony’s prime motivation is guilt over his awareness that he is no better than his friends and doesn’t deserve the break he has gotten.
The deck is also stacked for Anthony by his relationship with C.J., a girl from the good part of town. Jaime Pressly, a bright spot in last year’s Jerry Springer starrer, “Ringmaster,” offers a complex portrait of a teen girl attracted to a supposed roughneck.
Film stumbles in the final reel, when the realistic tenor of the story is traded in for melodramatic plot turns. But the acting and Galluzzo’s strong direction go a good way toward compensating for the weakness of his script. Tech credits are also plusses, with superb location shooting in rural Florida.