By Brad Wilke | August 28, 2010

A shopworn story of second chances, missed opportunities, and a variety of other cliches, Dylan Reynolds’s debut feature “Chain Link” charts the course of Anthony (Mark Irvingsen) as he works to create a life for himself following his release from prison.

Though that first sentence may sound like a harsh appraisal, it’s very difficult to tell a story like this without relying on certain elements that, by their very nature, cannot extend beyond the limitations of what defines them in the first place. For instance, the central character, Anthony, must make certain choices that are necessary to keep the story moving forward while other characters (the Sheriff, Anthony’s son, wife, boss and mother) must react according to certain rules to ensure that the inevitable trainwreck we are expecting from minute one actually occurs in minute 90. Just as we can predict the outcome of any mainstream romantic comedy because of the formula dictated by the genre, so too can we anticipate the resolution (and trajectory) of a “dad just released from prison and trying to make good” independent drama. That’s not to say that “Chain Link” is predictable, just that there aren’t any suprises.

Kicking off with what turns out to be a flash forward to a scene later in the film, we are introduced to ex-con Anthony, fresh out of prison and living with his mom. We are quickly apprised of Anthony’s history of poor choices and the current state of affairs in his hometown (especially as they relate to his girlfriend and apparent son). After an early run-in with the Sheriff (Peter Looney) and a heart-to-heart with his alcoholic boss (Jim Storm), Anthony finally gets around to visiting his ex-girlfriend (Yassmin Alers) and young son (Luciano Rauso), which goes about as well as you’d expect. After a little father son bonding, Anthony decides to throw it all away (again) with the strong arm robbery of a friend of his mother’s. From here, things go from bad to worse…and then even a little bit more worse, until we come full circle with the film’s climax.

From listening to a bit of the commentary track, it sounds like this film may have originally been intended as more of a character-driven drama than a violent outlaw film, which makes sense, as the scenes between Anthony and his son are some of the strongest in the film (young Luciano Rauso does a great job here), while other more violent moments seem tacked on as afterthoughts. Regardless of these storytelling decisions, the muddy, (sometimes) out-of-focus cinematography is inexcusable and is a real detriment to the enjoyment of the picture.

Overall, “Chain Link” does a pretty good job of telling its story; it’s a shame that we’ve seen it all before.

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