Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
DWF ’16: Misfortune
Arizona state parole board should be ashamed of itself. They just kicked loose
the man who murdered Boyd Whitlock’s father solely to alleviate prison
over-crowding. Of course, they won’t have trouble finding him. They could simply
follow the trail of dead bodies he leaves in Desmond Devenish’s Misfortune (trailer here), which screened
at the 2016 Dances with Films.
Whitlock pulled off a major diamond heist with intel supplied by Mallick, but
the post-score split ended in gunfire. The senior Whitlock stashed the loot
someplace before he croaked, so Mallick naturally pays the son a visit as soon
as the bureaucrats spring him. Obviously, the unemployed, freeloading Whitlock
fils does not have any diamonds in his life. Rounding up his girlfriend Sloan
and low life drug-pushing best bud Russell, Whitlock heads to the remote
crossroads where he was supposed to meet the old man that fateful night. They will
start their search from there, but Mallick will dog them every step of the way.
the scrambling commences, Misfortune sort
of becomes a stripped down, noirish It’s
a Mad, Mad, Mad World with dramatically fewer stars and significantly more
facial hair. There will be betrayals and a few dangerous outsiders getting in
on the act. Nobody actually holds the bag of stones murmuring “the stuff that
dreams are made of” but the sentiment is clearly there.
Devenish is a better director and screenwriter than a leading man. Granted,
Boyd Whitlock has had some bad turns, but his portrayal is problematically
sullen at times. However, the film still zings along nicely. Some of the twists
you can see coming up in the rearview mirror, but the pacing and attitude are
spot on. He cranks up the tension quite dexterously and fully capitalizes on
the desert locations.
also has some effective support, starting with Xander Bailey, who steals most
of his scenes as the caustic Russell. Crafty veterans Kevin Gage, Steve Earle,
and Nick Mancuso also lend the film grit and massive screen presence as
Mallick, Jim the Whitlocks’ family friend, and old Roman, respectively.
Despite its budget constraints, Misfortune is a nifty little Southwest
noir, in the tradition of Cold in July and
Red Rock West. We can deal with
Devenish’s on-screen brooding, but the title is a terrible mistake. This film
is considerably more fun than the word “misfortune” implies. Recommended for
thriller fans, Misfortune should have
a considerable life ahead of it on the festival circuit, particularly in the Sunbelt,
following its screening at this year’s Dances with Films.
Labels: DWF '16, Southwest Noir