“Misfortune” is what it is, a small-budget neo-noir so generic that one half-expects to see a bar code rather than closing credits at the end. Chief among its few distinguishing characteristics: Seth Johnson’s evocative cinematography during nighttime scenes in desert locales near Tucson, Nick Mancuso’s brief but effectively snarly portrayal of a thief who loves not wisely but too well, and a mildly surprising twist two-thirds of the way into the narrative. As for everything else, well, there isn’t much here that you haven’t seen before, quite often, in similarly formulaic crime dramas.
The movie clearly is intended as something of a calling card by actors Desmond Devenish and Xander Bailey, who collaborated on the derivative screenplay that conveniently supplies starring roles in which they can strut their stuff. Devenish, who also directed, plays Boyd, an ordinary guy whose criminally inclined father, Roman (Mancuso), meets a violent end during the film’s lengthy pre-credits prologue. After robbing a jewelry store, Roman tries to kill Mallick (Kevin Gage), his partner in crime, because the disloyal thug had been carrying on with Roman’s wife. Unfortunately, Mallick is a better shot.
Flash forward seven years: Boyd is a mechanic — although, judging from his perusal of want ads, not a very good one — with a curvy live-in girlfriend named Sloan (Jenna Kanell) and a petty-criminal best friend named Russell (Bailey). Mallick, newly paroled after serving hard time, reappears on the scene to demand the diamonds Roman pilfered, and then hid, before being mortally wounded. Boyd has no idea where the diamonds are. At first, he doesn’t even know that the missing valuables actually are diamonds. But that doesn’t stop him from setting out, with Sloan and Russell, to locate whatever they are, wherever they are. Nothing good comes of this.
As a first-time feature director, Devenish lacks the experience — and the sense of pacing — to keep the audience distracted from lapses in logic and holes in the plot. It would be inaccurate, however, to describe “Misfortune” as dull (Devenish does demonstrate some flair for choreographing sudden violence) and downright unfair not to note that the lead performances are as persuasive as the material allows. In addition to those players already mentioned, Vinicius Machado deserves credit for neatly balancing menace and cunning during his brief turn as a hard-bargaining dealer in stolen merchandise. Maybe it’s only petty larceny in this context, but it’s scene-stealing nonetheless.