“Don’t get mad, get even” (with a side trip to getting religion) takes on extra meaning in Andrew Shea’s intriguing realization of John Rafter Lee’s tale of meting out justice whether deserved or not.
Billy Burke descends mightily into the role of Frank—a longtime departed father killer (defending himself and his battered mom) who returns to the scene of his crime, trying to woo back his former girlfriend, Karen (Sherry Stringfield does a commendable job with the ambiguity of sensual love and burning hate for her deeply troubled man).
Egging Frank on is the ever-present Preacher (Gregory Itzkin pontificates convincingly). Whether leering out of a television defending his designer suits and handmade shoes or sitting on a park bench exclaiming “There is no hell,” this ethereal figure helps lift the metaphorical aspects of an apparent thriller far beyond the heavens above.
The supporting cast is also something to behold. Lee Garlington is the agreeably angelic receptionist of Penfold Armored—a security company whose largest profit comes in the form of an illegal insurance scam. Head honcho Hank (Phil Reeves) is the silver-haired devil-in-charge, aided and amusingly abetted by Wayne Knight’s engaging portrayal of an embezzling accountant who leaves the shells out of his shotgun when a labour shortage forces him to be the “outside” man while the bank-on-wheels delivers and picks up bags of cash all over Los Angeles.
Co-worker Jimmy (Robert Rusler) is a tad too pompous, making his ultimate fate more conveniently plot-fulfilling than a tragic end to a lost soul. Phil, Kirk Baltz, is the milder-mannered middleman who finally exacts his own sweet revenge when forced into a group-handcuff circle of comeuppance.
It falls to Burke to carry the film and, in the main, he does an admiral job. The born-again judge-and-jury disdains profanity, fornication, cigarettes and alcohol but is so wilfully blind to the facts or willing to take the time to discover the back-story of anyone else but himself that the meticulousness of his heist plan is at odds with his personal tunnel vision. Burke demonstrates an impressive range of emotion and inner turmoil that could be used to great effect in other scripts that aren’t so driven by unbelievable perfect timing (preparing an apartment for later intrusion and evidence planting) and coincidence (a pair of holdups just one pickup apart).
Andrew Gross’ mallet-laden, voice-infused original score is always at one with the narrative and the selection of songs (notably Gil Talmi’s “Blue Smoke,” “Hold That Thought” and Gross/Kevin Williams’ “I Wanna Get With You”) keep the ear happily engaged and entertained.
Whether along for the ride of a fast-paced plot or savouring the spiritual/moral undertones, it’s a film in which few will fail to find something to enjoy. JWR