things are just a rite of passage for teenage boys, like their first hostage
crisis. Frankly, sixteen-year-old (at the time of production) Jack Fessenden
looks far too young to have experienced his first standoff with desperate
fugitives, but as the son of fan favorite horror actor-director Larry
Fessenden, he has probably spent so much time on film shoots, his directorial
debut was almost overdue. Of course, he got a few assists from his father, who
served as cinematographer and co-star of his son’s Stray Bullets (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
is summer, so Ash and Connor would like to just fart around with a paintball
gun and flirt (awkwardly) with girls. Connor would be entitled to the day off,
since he works for real at the local garage. Yet, he has agreed to help Ash (a
stranger to productive employment) clean out the family’s camper in the woods,
at his father’s request.
in the nearest crime-ridden big city, a trio of low-life crooks are biting off
more than they can chew. They intended to rob a gangster they had previously
done business with, but they did not expect him to be so ornery and well-armed.
Needless to say, it is not a clean getaway. In fact, it will not be a getaway
at all for the slowly expiring Charlie (played by Fessenden père), unless he
gets medical treatment soon. Naturally, they will hole up in the very camper
the lads are supposed to clean.
is disgustingly young, even by the standards of the silent era, but J.
Fessenden’s instincts are right on target. Rather than trying to be hipper than
hip, he dials the film down to a level of earthy honesty. In fact, Fessenden’s
hand only gets heavy in the closing moments, when he feels it necessary to beat
us over the head with the title’s meaning. Presumably, he has seen most if not
all of the thirty-seven thousand films his dad has appeared in, but we might
hazard a guess that Kelly Reichardt’s recently restored River of Grass held the greatest influential sway over Stray. Both films have a pungent,
tactile sense of place and to varying degrees, they de-emphasize the crime
drama (presented almost tangentially in River)
for the sake of character development.
Fessenden is also pretty solid as responsible Connor and his father is terrific
as bleeding-out Charlie. Granted, most of his screen time is spent in the
backseat of the getaway car, but that still afforded him greater range of
movement than what he had in Dan Berk & Robert Olsen’s Body. Asa Spurlock us a bit cringy as Ash, but it is always a kick
to watch seasoned pros like James Le Gros and Kevin Corrigan do their thing as
the unstable getaway driver and the hitman chasing after them.
Bullets should absolutely not get
dismissed as a vanity production or a manifestation of misplaced parental
enthusiasm. Even if you see a lot of genre films over the course of a month it
still holds up quite well. Recommended for those who appreciate crime drama
with coming-of-age resonance, Stray
Bullets opens this Friday (2/10) in New York, at the Village East.
Labels: Larry Fessenden