You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Girl Is in Trouble’

Columbus Short plays a Lower East Side noir protagonist in this overamped drama.

Columbus Short, Alicja Bachleda, Wilmer Valderrama, Jesse Spencer, Miriam Colon, Paz de la Huerta, Kareem Savinon.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1706625/

A textbook noir premise gets an overamped and undercompelling treatment in “The Girl Is in Trouble,” the story of a struggling Lower East Side DJ (Columbus Short) who becomes embroiled in the fallout from a murder, courtesy of the title’s damsel in distress (Alicja Bachleda). Sporting plenty of twists but few surprises, this stylish yet derivative eOne day-and-date release seems most likely to be watched by viewers who — like its hero — stumble in by accident.

Said DJ, the Nigerian-born August (Short), is contacted at 2:30 a.m. by Signe (Bachleda), a stunning Swede with whom he almost hooked up on a prior occasion. It must be fate: A funny montage illustrates that he’s quite far down her call list. Wearing only a trenchcoat and flip-flops and desperate for a place to stay, she sleeps with him that night, in what August, the next morning, comes to regard as a femme fatale’s ploy to steal his cash. At that time, August also discovers she’s carrying a camera-phone video that implicates smarm king Nicholas (Jesse Spencer) in a murder.

Nicholas, the son of a financial-sector bigwig modeled on Bernie Madoff, has the power and wealth to cover up the killing. But August and Signe decide to confront him with the evidence. In one of the plot’s many coincidences, Nicholas bears responsibility for getting August fired from a bartending gig.

First-time feature director Julius Onah and his co-screenwriter, Mayuran Tiruchelvam, somewhat clumsily paint in shades of gray. Moody, daddy-hating Nicholas haplessly saws Beethoven’s 7th on his prized violin. Signe’s motives are in constant doubt. This is the sort of film in which, even in the midst of a blackmail scheme, the two sort-of lovers can go clubbing to celebrate a moment when “everything felt possible again.”

Meanwhile, on a Lower East Side whose residents seem to know one another better than the neighbors in your average Gotham walk-up, Angel (Wilmer Valderrama) searches for the deceased, his brother, Jesus (Kareem Savinon), who had gone to Nicholas’ home to sell drugs. August is one of the first people he interrogates. Paz de la Huerta appears briefly as a woman who leads Angel to the site of the crime.

At the outset, August, in an uncharismatic voiceover, says he wishes he could tell this coke-fueled story from beginning to end; unfortunately, he doesn’t “remember it that way,” and Onah tries to liven up the straightforward scenario with a scrambled chronology and sudden digressions. One montage introduces us to a long list of Facebook friends, even though August admits there’s no need for viewers to remember most of them. Another sequence runs through the history of immigrant groups on the Lower East Side — the sort of topical tangent one associates with executive producer Spike Lee. The film shoehorns in an awkward flashback to show us what really happened the night of the crime. (Structurally, the flashback also counters a moment of blunt misogyny from August.)

The movie was filmed in several formats, but Super 35 contributes to a sleek, saturated look. Onah pays apparent homage to Lee in a few shots that evoke the “Do the Right Thing” director’s trademark double-dolly.

Film Review: 'The Girl Is in Trouble'

Reviewed online, New York, April 1, 2015. Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: An Entertainment One release of a Deer Jen Films and Toy Closet Films production in association with CinemaStreet and RCR Partners. Produced by Julius Onah, Robert Profusek, Ryan Silbert, Jen Gatien, Dana Offenbach, Mark Campbell. Executive producers, Spike Lee, Rui Costa Reiss, Jonathan Bird, Daniel Reznick. Co-producers, Katie Mustard, Mayuran Tiruchelvam. Co-executive producer, Irina Ginzburg.

Crew: Directed by Julius Onah. Screenplay, Onah, Mayuran Tiruchelvam. Camera (color, widescreen), Rick Lopez; editor, Sabine Hoffman; music, Gregg Lehrman; production designer, Chris Trujillo; set decorator, Bianca Butti; costume designer, Sarah Mae Burton; sound, Will Masisak; visual effects, The Molecule; stunt coordinator, Manny Siverio; associate producers, Joanna Meek, Matthew Greenbaum; assistant director, Zeke Dunn; casting, Sig De Miguel, Stephen Vincent.

With: Columbus Short, Alicja Bachleda, Wilmer Valderrama, Jesse Spencer, Miriam Colon, Paz de la Huerta, Kareem Savinon.

More Film

  • Heather Parry Live Nation

    Heather Parry Fired From Live Nation Productions

    Live Nation Entertainment announced Thursday that Heather Parry will leave the company following a Variety investigation into allegations of workplace bullying. Parry ran Live Nation Productions, the TV and film arm of the touring conglomerate, for three years. In December, Variety reported that Live Nation’s human resources department had been repeatedly warned that Parry was [...]

  • A still from Sea of Shadows

    Sundance Film Review: 'Sea of Shadows'

    It’s a decidedly grim circle of life that moves us all in “Sea of Shadows,” a tight, troubling documentary eco-thriller that charts a compelling course of consequence from Chinese black-market apothecaries to the near-extinction of a rare whale in the Sea of Cortez, hitting on Mexican crime cartels and institutional corruption along the way. Austrian [...]

  • Matt Smith, Thomasin McKenzie Circle Edgar

    Matt Smith, 'Leave No Trace' Star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie Circle Edgar Wright Movie

    Matt Smith and “Leave No Trace” star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie are in negotiations to join Edgar Wright’s next film, “Last Night in Soho,” sources tell Variety. Details are vague about the psychological horror movie, other than it being set in London’s Soho district. Anya Taylor Joy is also in the cast. Production is expected to [...]

  • Vice Media

    Vice Media Taps Joe Simon as Chief Technology Officer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Joe Simon has been tapped as chief technology officer at Vice Media. The newly created role will include oversight of data analytics, engineering, information technology, media operations, media technology, post production, and systems management. Prior to Vice, Simon spent three years as Encompass Digital Media’s chief operating officer. Previously he held the chief technology officer [...]

  • Michael B Jordan denzel washington

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Denzel Washington's 'Journal for Jordan'

    Michael B. Jordan is in talks to star in Sony’s “Journal for Jordan,” a drama that will be directed by Denzel Washington. The movie, penned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Virgil Williams, is based on the true story of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dana Canedy’s love affair with First Sergeant Charles Monroe King. King kept a journal [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone

    Sylvester Stallone's Superhero Drama 'Samaritan' Lands at MGM

    MGM is developing the superhero drama “Samaritan” with Sylvester Stallone attached to star and produce through his Balboa Productions. The studio has acquired Bragi F. Schut’s script, which centers on a boy learning that a missing superhero, who vanished 20 years earlier after a battle, may still be alive. MGM will develop “Samaritan” with Stallone [...]

  • Kendrick Lamar

    Oscars: Kendrick Lamar and SZA Will Not Perform 'Black Panther' Song (EXCLUSIVE)

    Despite the Academy’s efforts to secure Kendrick Lamar and SZA for a performance of the Oscar-nominated song “All the Stars” from “Black Panther” on the upcoming Oscars telecast, the duo will not be a part of the show, Variety has learned. The reason, according to a source close to the situation, is logistics and timing. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content