Saturday, April 2, 2011

DIFF Review BOY WONDER - He Said

Directed by: Michael Morrissey
Written by: Michael Morrissey
Starring: Caleb Steinmeyer, Bill Sage, James Russo, and Zulay Heno

This was my first movie in this year’s edition of the Dallas International Film Festival, and after reading the synopsis, which touted the movie as a comic book influenced movie, I couldn’t help but think of KICK ASS from last year. But instead of getting McLovin’ and a cursing hyper-violent girl, in BOY WONDER we get more of a real portrayal of what happens when you try to take justice into your own hands. If you think of a more realistic outcome to the Batman origins tale, you'll get a sense of what you could expect from BOY WONDER

All of these comic book references aside, the movie does a great job of establishing the character. The film starts off with Sean Donovan (Steinmeyer) witnessing the murder of his mother at the hands of an assailant at the age of nine. Flashforward, and we see the older Sean running and training; you can tell he is athletically fit, and his face shows a strange sense of determination. He is portrayed as a straight-A student, casually shrugging off a 100 on a test, all the while studying chemistry just for the heck of it. However, there is something amiss. You can tell in his eyes that his mother's death has forever changed him. He lives with his father (Sage), a distant former boxer and recovering alcoholic, who also bears a lot of guilt in the mother’s death as well. Parallel to that we are introduced to Teresa Aemas (Heno), a hot-shot detective who managed to apprehend a big time criminal.

Ever since his mother’s death, the detective that helped out during the case has been letting him sift through all of the mug shots in hopes of finding his mother’s killer. The story picks up when we see that Sean starts doing his own vigilante work late at night thanks to these mug shots. In his first fight, he shoots a pimp after he spots him abusively talking to a hooker. It’s at this point where the movie starts to get into some rather interesting territory, with the intensity of the fights growing in scale and severity.

The complexity of Sean and his father’s relationship is something that cannot be articulated without spoiling much of the plot of the story, but it is a very subtle and harsh one, with a lot of unsaid things bubbling under the surface. They share many scenes where you can feel the grey cloud looming over their head, and in a very emotional scene towards the end of the movie, you can feel the sincerity of the fatherly love.

While Sean’s body continues to get stronger thanks to training and steroid use, it seems that his mind is starting to unravel. With constant flashbacks, hallucinations, and seeing people that aren’t there. I initially thought that there were a lot of inconsistencies in the plot, but they could be a side effect of his deterioration. While watching it, an issue I had with the movie was the way that Sean kept on making rather big mistakes that someone as smart as himself shouldn’t make. If we are thinking that he doesn't want to get caught, he seems very careless and sloppy with his actions, and anyone that has ever seen a crime movie wouldn't do in real life.

The biggest complaint about the movie was a rather slow middle third. There was a lot of set up that felt like it took forever to get going or to pay off. I found myself fidgeting a lot during this time, and I wish it could have been shorter.  There was a lot of focus on Detectvice Ames during these parts, who I found to be a rather cliché character along with her cartoonishly inappropriate partner. The meat and potatoes of the movie is Sean and the decisions he makes, his relationship with his father, and how he tries to cope with maybe letting go of his mother. In the end, I understand why the detective was there and why she needed to be characterized, but there could have been different, more subtle ways of developing her characters which would have made the movie flow a lot better.

In the end, this movie was a very intense experience for me. There was a lot of subtexts that just scream second viewing. It has a powerful and gut wrenching finale that makes you think. If you can catch this tonight, April 2, at 10:15 at NorthPark, I would highly recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. I thought the movie was freaking fantastic! I am standing in line now, waiting for the DVD because like you said, it demands a second viewing.