The visceral Texas-based drama Hellion by new feature filmmaker Kat Candler feels like her first outing, with plot holes and a dull second act not compensating for the strong acting and a unique shooting style.
Hellion centers on 13-year-old delinquent Jacob and his little brother, Wes, dealing with their emotionally absent father, Hollis. Jacob and Hollis attempt to take responsibility for their actions after a family tragedy and learn to forgive each other before Wes is permanently taken from their home. (JLH: 3/5)
Click HERE to read our FF2 Haiku. Seen by Rich who agrees with my assessment.
Review of Hellion by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky
Writer/Director Kat Candler begins the continuation of her 2012 Sundance-selected short with 13-year-old Jacob (Josh Wiggins) riding his bicycle, with his little brother Wes (Deke Garner) trailing behind. Joining friends near a local football game, they start smashing in trucks and cars, eventually getting caught, sending Jacob to a detention facility boot camp one step below the Juvenile Delinquent Center. Allowed to leave at night, Jacob returns to his southeast Texas home with his deadbeat, alcoholic father (Aaron Paul) and endearing younger brother, both still reeling from the mother’s tragic death. Child Protective Services, with knowledge that Hollis is not taking proper care of his children, arrives at the house to take Wes away to temporarily live with his responsible, suburban Aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis).
Hollis is a step down from the multi-dimensional character Jesse Pinkman on AMC’s Breaking Bad, who three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul so brilliantly portrayed for five seasons. Paul, however, gives this one-note character something more than what is written in the script. The scenes between him and his sons, strongly supported by Wiggins and Garner, clearly portray a family torn apart by tragedy and on the brink of dissolution. As does Juliette Lewis, who provides the only light of the film as her portrayal of separated suburbanite Aunt Pam, who takes Wes under wing and acts as a surrogate mother he so desperately needs.
Aside from the stellar acting, the script feels like a ton of bricks dropped onto the audience’s shoulders, weighing them down until they feel relief when it ends. There were many unanswered questions, from Hollis’ past baseball career to whose sister Aunt Pam was and how she managed to live in a polished suburb so close to Jacob and Wes’s low-income neighborhood. Furthermore, there was a lack of clear exposition of Hollis and his relationship with his wife. It is implied he was building her a dream house in another town for the hope of a better life, but the whole storyline is lost in Hollis’ sea of angst, anger, and drunkenness.
Although the middle of the film drags, the first and third acts of Hellion tie together nicely, showing how a 13-year-old boy and his lost father can take their struggles and fight for a better life, in a dream house or not.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (7/3/14)
Bottom Photo: Josh Wiggins as “Jacob” in Hellion.
Q: Does Hellion pass the Bechdel Test?
A: No. Hellion is about a boy, his father, his brother and his friends. There are very few women in this film, and none of them speak with each other. (jlh)
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