Is evil innate? Is something wicked always there, residing in people, whether they are aware of it or not? Or do circumstances push people to become a gnarled, warped version of themselves? Are they forced to commit evil by a series of events beyond their control? Jamison M. LoCascio’s The Depths explores the dark side of humanity with a keen eye and genuine emotion.
Best friends Mickey (Patch Darragh) and Ray (Michael Rispoli) are finally finishing their first screenplay, after nearly two years of writing. Their untitled project is about two brothers who move to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams, but circumstances force them to murder. One brother becomes addicted to it, the other tries to get out. Through Ray’s brother, they get a meeting with Vincent Fortunado (Anthony LoCascio), a movie producer with considerable clout. The meeting is amicable, but the producer finds a few faults and does not agree to finance it. The friends get crazy pissed at this, but they further research, even going to see an active crime scene through a mutual acquaintance.
Mickey, who tends to drink too much every night, is late for work yet again and gets fired. These two defeats back-to-back prove too much for him, and he starts abusing cocaine. This puts a rift between him and Ray, so now each of them are competing to finish their own takes of the original draft. As Mickey is out partying with Chastity (Michelle Veintimilla), a prostitute, and doing more drugs, he is getting even more paranoid that someone is out to steal his version of the screenplay. The more out of it Mickey becomes, the more he believes he needs to live the lifestyle to write as realistically as possible. Does he kill someone? Can Ray repair their relationship before Mickey goes off the edge?
“…two brothers who move to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams, but circumstances force them to murder.”
LoCascio directs with extreme confidence from the very first scene. Mickey is smoking a cigarette on the balcony and re-enters Ray’s apartment through a small window. He settles on the couch as Ray, tapping away on the keyboard, comes into focus in the background. This is all a single camera shot, arcing around Mickey on the balcony, dollying through the window and settling on a master shot of the room. This opening demands the audience take notice right away. That same confidence leads to some odd scenes though. The first time we see Mickey at work, late as per usual, he helps a customer to aisle 4. Instead of just cutting to the aisle, the camera. Placed on the opposite end, follows them past each aisle before arriving at the proper destination. The endcaps are so close to the camera, and the way it cuts off the action is weird, but this is the only awkward scene.
The Depths is co-written by LoCascio and Robert Spat, and they don’t pull any punches. The duo never allows an easy out for any of the characters and the conclusion is the only one this story could have. Beyond the plotline and the characters though, the movie’s themes are what make it so unique. Well, the way it explores them, to be more accurate. Ray works as a butcher and is the angrier one after the initial pitch meeting doesn’t go as expected. However, he is able to channel that in a much healthier way, reading up on crime investigations, using his contacts to get ideas.
“…the audience must debate if it is out of concern or jealousy.”
Observing the way a person handles defeat and gives into their demons with such scrutiny is a tricky proposition. Lean too much one way or the other and the audience will be turned off by how didactic the whole affair seems to be. LoCascio and Spat set a natural course for their characters but never judge them. When Mickey gets in a bar fight on Chastity’s behalf, the audience must debate if it is out of concern or jealousy. This freedom allows the viewer to decide on the whole innate versus circumstances bit mentioned in the opening. No matter where you land, the end will leave an impact.
Michael Rispoli’s amazing comedic timing (see Death To Smoochy and While You Were Sleeping, two personal favorite) is nowhere in sight here. He gives a sympathetic performance that balances care and frustration for Mickey well. Patch Darragh is stunning as Mickey. His ever-growing confidence in his writing abilities as the rest of his life falls apart is expertly handled. Despite some of the terrible things Mickey winds up doing, Darragh almost always gets the audience to at least understand, if not downright empathize, with the reckless character. Anthony LoCascio’s small role as the producer is reliable, being polite but firm in equal measure. Gia Crovatin from Syfy’s excellent show Van Helsing exudes charm in her brief appearance. Michelle Veintimilla as the gold-digging Chastity is exceptional. The character is upfront about what she wants and the kind of life she expects, and Veintimilla sells it well.
The Depths is terrifically acted, smartly written, and directed with intense style. However, what makes it such a fascinating watch is how it observes someone spiraling out of control and lets the audience figure out what course of action is best.
The Depths (2018) Directed by Jamison M. LoCascio. Written by Jamison M. LoCascio, Robert Spat. Starring Michael Rispoli, Patch Darragh, Gia Crovatin, Anthony LoCascio, and Michelle Veintimilla.