Tooken. Sharkproof. Treasure Of The Black Jaguar. Cameron Van Hoy’s directorial feature-length debut, Flinch, is a far cry from the screenplays he’s known for. As opposed to comedy, this is a crime thriller. Does the filmmaker successfully jump from one genre to another, or does he wind up flailing about the spoofs he’s associated with?
Joey (Daniel Zovatto) lives with his controlling mother, Gloria (Cathy Moriarty). Despite her gruffness, the two have a close bond. Joey’s a hitman, a career inherited from his father. His latest assignment hits a snag when an innocent bystander witnesses his killings. To keep the murders under wraps, Joey kidnaps the lady, Mia Rose (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), and keeps her prisoner at his home. Once there, Mia’s calm exterior causes an unexpected shift in the hitman. Slowly but surely, Joey and his kidnapped victim get to know each other and fall in love. But is it true love, or is Mia just using her wiles to escape?
Flinch works in fits and starts. Zovatto is excellent as the soft-hearted killer. While such characters have existed in film for eons, he makes Joey a three-dimensional person and eschews most cliches. Cobham-Hervey is magnificent as the kidnapped Mia. She makes the character falling in love believable while still being guarded enough for ambiguity’s sake. Moriarty is outstanding as the controlling mother who is more vicious than anyone else in her orbit.
“…Joey and his kidnapped victim get to know each other and fall in love.”
Unfortunately, the relationship between Joey and Gloria is not as explored as it needs to be. She has such a stranglehold on her child that it affects every decision and action he makes. But their backstory gets a few sentences here and there, leaving viewers questioning how they got this close. This harms the story structure since their closeness is crucial to much of what transpires.
On the exact opposite end of that spectrum are Mia and Joey. Their relationship from the start makes perfect sense. The ups, downs, and perils they face as she’s locked up will leave audiences riveted. The side characters, specifically the mobsters, also round out this world nicely.
Flinch uses lighting to great effect. Strong contrasting colors clash from one room to the next in the apartment used as a prison. The direction keeps the tension high as the two leads realize what they truly desire. The ending is mostly effective, though it could’ve landed better if the relationship between Joey and Gloria was developed further.
"…keeps the tension high..."