In crime movies, occasionally the criminals catch a break and come out on top. Sometimes after their moment of gratification, their lives steadily unravel to the point of being caught or until they draw their final breath. In the darkly comedic crime thriller Fate Alchemy, writer-director Ace Blankenship documents the lives of three friends who, after a life-altering act of negligence, must confront the trickling effects.
“Hourglass has trickled down to the last of its sand. Final grain is making its inevitable collision with the present.” This is a line spoken by a gun-wielding intruder who’s interrogating a weeping hostage about the whereabouts of a specific person. But this line also speaks to the heart of the filmmaker’s mournful tale of possibility and fate. The characters struggle to outrun their dour circumstances, and watching them flounder, persevere, and then flounder again is at times suspenseful and other times humorous.
Fate Alchemy then goes from an ominous interrogation to a wild scene at a party. This is before any of the characters are confronted by immediate danger and are basking in the transient euphoria of being among friends and partners. The next day, viewers are introduced to the garrulous, mildly brash, and charming Beck (Tweed Manning). Through voice-over, he describes his relationship with his girlfriend, Layla (Savanna James), and how, despite their frequent spats, they have a deep, enduring connection. Last night was all fun and games. But today, Beck, Stevie (Jeffrey Jordan), and Jamie (Ken Blankenship) plan to purchase 18 grams of LSD.
“Last night was all fun and games. But today, Beck, Stevie, and Jamie plan to purchase 18 grams of LSD.”
Before anything illicit or questionable occurs, the filmmaker focuses on the three friends and their personalities. Beck is charismatic and cocky, as opposed to the eccentric and naïve Stevie, while Jamie is the more coolheaded of the bunch. Their clashing personalities provide snippets of comedy, both physical and verbal. Admittedly, some bits pan out better than others. One of the better attempts is a flashback of Beck and his friends going door-to-door, attempting to sell fraudulent pills. A lesser comedic attempt involves Stevie making a move on his crush, which feels out of place, considering what everyone has just gone through.
Fate Alchemy gives us an idea of how the characters handle stressful situations or avoid them altogether. It all leads to a drug deal that goes south quickly and unpredictably, making for some amusing scenes as the men exchange words and plans. The crew is comically propelled from one bad situation to the next as if fate is their true enemy. Manning, Jordan, and Blankenship play off each other excellently. With the assistance of Carly Robinson’s turn as a menacing, sharp-tongued antagonist, there are clearly drawn stakes.
In addition to successfully exploiting the mounting tension, Blankenship captures the lingering fear of mortality and fate with a finale that, while rushed in areas, is elevated by a series of factors. Manning’s performance, slow motion/distortion effects, and Pam Taylor’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun” all coalesce for a powerful ending.
While there are instances where Blankenship undercuts the tension with comedy, he devises a fast pace (with Christian Sales as co-editor). The sensible payoff reinforces the themes of fate, regret, and cruelty at play throughout Fate Alchemy. At one point, Beck says, “There’s little we can do now,” a frightening and comforting line as sometimes there isn’t anything we can do but wait and see how everything plays out.
For screening information, visit the Fate Alchemy official website.
"…successfully exploiting the mounting tension..."