×

Cost of a Soul

Technically accomplished but dramatically unconvincing, writer-director Sean Kirkpatrick's "Cost of a Soul," recycles the story of a vet traumatized by war who returns home to a world turned upside down.

With:
With: Chris Kerson, Will Blagrove, Judy Jerome, Mark Borkowski, Gregg Almquist, Maddie Morris Jones, Diane M. Johnson.

Technically accomplished but dramatically unconvincing, writer-director Sean Kirkpatrick’s “Cost of a Soul,” recycles the story of a vet traumatized by war who returns home to a world turned upside down. Winner of Rogue and AMC’s Big Break Movie Contest, the pic is being given a 50-theater release, which will enhance the film’s homevid potential, and give future projects by the promising young Philly helmer and his fine team a leg up, providing that next pic has a sharper-honed script with less cliched dialogue.

As is, the emotional elements explored by “Cost of a Soul,” and the devices it employs, seem trite and occasionally shoplifted from better-told tales. “Soul” challenges war vet Tommy (Chris Kerson) to skirt the easy embrace of a criminal life, but plays notes at least as old as “The Public Enemy,” and Fitzpatrick doesn’t add much that hasn’t been done before.

Still, in a deftly handled sequence that tells the tale of from an Iraq war perspective, we see Tommy involved in the torture of an Iraqi civilian, and hear a conclusion — this criminal act “just saved live” one soldier says — that seems like rank rationalization (though it’s not clear the pic intends it that way). Happening upon the bloody scene is another soldier, D.D. Davis (Will Blagrove), who threatens to turn the torturers in. The two will meet again, naturally, Stateside.

Popular on Variety

Tommy returns to Philadelphia determined to quit the local Irish capo, Bernie Burns (Gregg Almquist), for whom he worked before joining the Marines (and raising some questions about Marine recruitment policies). But Tommy’s embittered wife, Faith (Judy Jerome), and their handicapped young daughter, Hope (Maddie Morris Jones) have accepted too much help from Bernie during Tommy’s absence for him to ever break free. So he takes the brutalizing experiences he’s had in the service of his country and puts them into the service of a homicidal mob boss a la “The Roaring Twenties.”

The ease with which Tommy becomes a professional killer may be intended as an ironic commentary on the dehumanization of war, in a way the line about torture is not. But it feels more like an expedient way to start ratcheting up the body count.

D.D., too, is from the City of Brotherly love, and has come back to find his older brother, Darnell (Nakia Dillard), dealing drugs, and his younger brother, James (Daveed Ramsay), poised to join the family business. Their mother (Diane M. Johnson) is at the end of her rope and D.D. — who also happens to be a gifted alto saxophonist, so gifted, in fact, that he sounds like a tenor saxophonist — has to start making things right.

The moth-eaten cliches and level of violence and cruelty aren’t effective — still, “Cost of a Soul” manages to hang together quite well as a piece of filmmaking; the editing by Jonathan Risinger is creative, and the cinematography by Chase Bowman is always convincing.

As D.D. and Tommy follow their not-quite-parallel and ultimately intersecting lines through the economic underbelly of Philadelphia the viewer never gets thrown off track.

The acting is a bit tough to swallow at times, largely because of the dialogue the players are obliged to read, but Jerome does a fantastic job as the beleagured wife, and young Maddie Jones is quite a find.

Cost of a Soul

Production: A Rogue and AMC Independent presentation of a Cast Shadow production. Produced by Sean Kirkpatrick, Jonathan Risinger, Edward J. Eberwine III. Executive producer, J.P. Mascaro Jr. Directed, written by Sean Kirkpatrick.

Crew: Camera (B&W, color), Chase Bowman; editor, Jonathan Risinger; music, Rodney Whittenberg; production designer, Michael Crenshaw; sound, David Barber; associate producers, Stephen Bozzacco, Ryan Lacen, Ian Simon; assistant director, Lacen. Reviewed at the AMC Empire, Manhattan, May 20, 2011. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Chris Kerson, Will Blagrove, Judy Jerome, Mark Borkowski, Gregg Almquist, Maddie Morris Jones, Diane M. Johnson.

More Film

  • Mika Ronkainen and Merja Aakko

    ‘All the Sins’ Producers to Broaden Spanish-Language Ties (EXCLUSIVE)

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden: “All the Sins”’ Finnish co-writers and creators Mika Ronkainen and Merja Aakko, winners of last year’s Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for outstanding Nordic screenplay, are developing for MRK Matila Röhr Productions an adoption drama set between Finland and Guatemala. Based on a true story, the six-part series “Act of Telling” (a [...]

  • A still from Vivos by Ai

    'Vivos': Film Review

    To the individual enduring it, sorrow seems a lonely, defenseless emotion, one from which others are too quick to look away. Shared and felt en masse, however, it can become something different: a galvanizing force, a wall, not diminished in pain but not diminished by it either. Ai Weiwei’s stirring new documentary “Vivos” runs on [...]

  • Jumbo

    'Jumbo': Film Review

    Tall, dark and handsome? The crush that Noémie Merlant’s character, Jeanne, explores in “Jumbo” is one out of three: a 25-foot-tall carnival ride who seduces the amusement park janitor as she spit-cleans his bulbs. During the night shift, Jumbo literally lights up Jeanne’s life, and while he’s not handsome in the traditional sense — especially [...]

  • Ironbark

    'Ironbark': Film Review

    Movie spies typically fall into one of two categories. There are the butterflies — flamboyant secret agents like James Bond or “Atomic Blonde” who behave as conspicuously as possible. And then there are the moth-like kind, who do their best to blend in. The character Benedict Cumberbatch plays in “Ironbark” belongs to the latter variety, [...]

  • Miss Juneteenth review

    'Miss Juneteenth': Film Review

    “Miss Juneteenth” richly captures the slow pace of ebbing small-town Texas life, even if you might wish there were a bit more narrative momentum to pick up the slack in writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples’ first feature. She’s got a very relatable heroine in Nicole Beharie’s Turquoise, an erstwhile local beauty queen whose crown proved the [...]

  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always

    'Never Rarely Sometimes Always': Film Review

    The basic plot of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is easy enough to describe. A 17-year-old girl named Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) winds up pregnant in a small Pennsylvania town. Prevented from seeking an abortion by the state’s parental consent laws, she takes off for New York City with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), where what they’d [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content