You’ve seen films like the sociopolitically-minded Bruiser before. A study of desperate folks living on the fringes of society, driven to extremes. A dissection and critique of the American dream. A powerful lead performance of a usually callous protagonist redeeming him or herself to anchor the visceral narrative. Doom and gloom, with a sprinkle of warmth. American History X, Donnybrook, American Woman, Tainted and Skin are just a few examples of this well-trodden cinematic path. So perhaps originality isn’t director Jon Mark Nail’s strong suit. While he may have tacked on one subplot too many in his contribution to the sub-genre, it still manages to be worth your time – mostly due to its powerful lead performance.
“…Harry offers Jack significantly more money than usual to hold some mysterious cargo…”
Dustin Whitehead ignites the screen as Jack, a thug living in a ramshackle motel that belongs to his father, Frank (Allan Whitehead, who, barring cosmic coincidence, must be Dustin’s real dad). Frank’s on parole; Jack’s mother fled to Canada a long time ago. Skinny, tatted-up, hair dyed after early-2000’s Eminem, Jack is a walking bomb, his fuse inches away from exploding. To help his father attain the dream of renovating their fleabag lodgings – “put in a pool, maybe a Tiki Bar” – Jack takes jobs from Harry (Jeff Benninghofen), a local criminal who runs his business under the guise of being a greenhouse farm owner.
One day, Harry offers Jack significantly more money than usual to hold some mysterious cargo, with the promise of more riches to come. When Jack finds out what the cargo is, his humanity surfaces; he tries to remain stone-hearted, yet the cargo, as well as his relationship with local addict Dina (Callan White), render his attempts increasingly futile. This leads to a violent ending, wherein the fallacy of the American dream is further reiterated.
"…serves as an excellent showcase for the talented actor."