is slower at Luanne’s greasy spoon than at the diner in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Like the eatery in Petrified Forest, it seems to attract
more criminals than customers. Laine is one of the former, but at least there
are extenuating circumstances surrounding her crime. The rest of the bunch are
just back-stabbing thieves, but they keep things interesting in Oren Shai’s The Frontier (trailer here), which releases
today on digital VOD, from Kino Lorber.
is clearly on the run, but the motel-diner called The Frontier might look like a good place to hide out. Frankly, she
is not inclined to stay put for very long, until she hears two guests talking
about a delivery of laundered money. Hmm, maybe that could be the proceeds of
the big heist that went down a few towns over. That gives her an incentive to
accept Luanne’s job offer. Of course, there is also the recent murder of a local
political bigwig’s son. Everything is definitely connected, so do not trust
she is definitely an ambiguous anti-heroine, Laine will be the closest thing we
have to a rooting interest. Her boss Luanne (at least for a day or two), is a
former Hollywood starlet who never made it, but still drifts along in a haze
like Norma Desmond. Flynn, the Michael York-esque guest is a lot more fun to
have around than Gloria, his mentally unstable arm-candy. However, Lee, the
closest thing to the boss of the gang, is just mean as a snake. Throw them all
into the same room and there is bound to be trouble.
Frontier is gritty neo-noir
thriller that wears its Jim Thompson and James Cain influences on its sleeve.
It has an unplaceable period feel, but cinematographer Jay Keitel’s pulpy,
Hopper-ish look could fit anytime from the early sixties through the late seventies.
Donahue probably continues to be best known for House of the Devil, despite working steadily since then. However,
this could be the film that breaks her out. She is terrific as the squirrely
Laine. She covers tremendous ground, acting the vulnerable babe-in-the-woods
one minute and a scheming femme fatale the next. Jamie Harris is just a boozy
trip as the roguish Flynn. Jim Beaver makes a seriously evil cuss as bad old
Lee. Somehow, even in a film like this, Kelly Lynch seems to overplay Luanne’s
Blanche DuBois act. However, AJ Bowen adds some destabilizing arsenic as the
erratic Officer Gault.
Seeing the relatively unheralded Frontier might give those of us who were
too young to have been there an idea what is was like when the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple just sprang up, seemingly
out of nowhere. Shai had the benefit of an experienced, indie-centric ensemble,
but it is still likely to catch most folks by surprise. It looks great and
clearly enjoys its twisty ways. Highly recommended for noir fans, The Frontier launches today on digital
VOD platforms, including iTunes, with a DVD release scheduled for December 6th.
Labels: Film Noir, Jocelin Donahue, VOD