There is not a shortage of films touching upon the theme of the “sins of our fathers.” This idea that the tragic baggage of our family is passed along from one generation to the next. In Brett Bentman’s 90 Feet From Home, he tells the story of Scott and Thomas Conway as they struggle to find justice and peace from a childhood living under the abusive thumb of their alcoholic step-father.
At home, this blended family walks on eggshells to avoid confrontations with the abusive Jimmy (Shawn Michaels). Scott (Chase Pollack) has taken the brunt of Jimmy’s abuse, as Scott’s mother, Emily (Heather Williams) is dying of cancer, but the stress of her family is most likely killing her faster. Then there’s Scott’s brother Thomas (Jaren Lewison), who appears to be Jimmy’s favorite step-son and manages to escape abuse by keeping his mouth shut and doing what he’s told.
There is a glimmer of hope for Scott. He is a talented baseball player. He hits, fields, and carries himself like a professional. He so good, his family is visited by scouts from a major league team and offers him a generous signing bonus for the upcoming draft. Jimmy hates Scott so much that he refuses to let him go the majors and proceeds to break his arm in his sleep.
“…struggle to find justice and peace from a childhood living under the abusive thumb of their alcoholic step-father.”
Move ahead fifteen years an older Scott (Adam Hampton) returns to his hometown for the first time as a broken man. There’s no fanfare for the hometown hero, just released from his major league baseball team due to injuries. While he was away, his mother died of cancer; Scott was not there for her. His brother Thomas (Thom Hallum) became a police investigator, got married, and has a daughter; and Scott was nowhere to be seen. After Emily’s death, Jimmy went to prison for killing two girls in a drunken car accident.
The title 90 Feet From Home refers to the distance between home plate and first base while serving as a metaphor that you can never get too far from family, and you’re always drawn back. Scott is in a dangerous place, and he returns to his childhood home, where his father lives having served his prison term and found religion. Scott confronts his father and demands that he leaves the home left to him by his mother. The rest of the film follows Scott as he pieces together his family issues and finds some kind of peace in whatever form it can be found, good or bad.
The rest of the film plays out more like a thriller than a family drama. Scott carries a long-range rifle and stalks his father through the scope. On the other hand, Thomas is on the skids at his job and feels the responsibility to babysit his brother in case he tries something stupid. Trouble comes when Jimmy is confronted by two thugs after church. Scott has to step into the situation and ultimately kills both thugs, claiming he didn’t do it for his father, and to make matters worse, he pulls Thomas into the mess helping him dispose of the bodies. Ah, good to be back home, right?
“…must ultimately make a decision about whether exacting justice on his father will bring him peace.”
I’ll be honest, 90 Feet From Home starts a little rough. During the first act, when Scott and Thomas are young, the acting is not exactly the best. I’ve been a fan of Shawn Michaels as a teen during his WWE days, but his portrayal as the abusive step-father comes off noticeably forced. The tone of the entire film is slow and measured which doesn’t help. Thankfully, Michaels performance as the repentant sober father later in the film is much better.
The real performances to watch are from the main leads Hampton and Hallum, who solidly support the main body of the film and keeps it from falling into melodrama, coming dangerously close. That said, it’s important to understand 90 Feet From Home is essentially a western-noir. Set in Texas, with the wide-open feel of a small town, not obsessed with cellphones and the internet the focus is on characters and relationships. The noir aspect just says that the plotline for the protagonists will get increasingly and slowly worse before/if it ever gets better. Scott must ultimately make a decision about whether exacting justice on his father will bring him peace. This decision is complicated by a Dean Cain cameo as the father of the two girls killed by Jimmy, who stand clear on exacting justice. Jimmy’s quest for peace plays out in an unexpected way and remains engaging even throughout.
90 Feet From Home (2019) Written and directed by Brett Bentman. Starring Adam Hampton, Thom Hallum, Shawn Michaels, Chase Pollack, Jaren Lewison, Eric Roberts, Dean Cain.
6.5 out of 10 stars