Take Out Girl Image

Take Out Girl

By Andrew Stover | May 18, 2021

Take Out Girl isn’t necessarily treading new territory, but its compelling emphasis on Tera elevates the stakes. Radiating slick confidence and unflagging grit, Tera is a fierce protagonist who doesn’t succumb to failure. And because of this laudable, if slightly precarious attribute, she tries to save the restaurant and help her mother by working with Lalo. “With” is the keyword here, as Tera refuses to work “for” him, and this is clearly Tera’s effort to retain individuality and control. However, if we know anything about the drug game, there’s no definite way to sustain control of a situation. There are the wonted shootouts, mangled bodies, and double-crossings. More profoundly, there’s the distinct line between rectitude and turpitude, a line others see, and some don’t.

The first half lays out the fabric of the Wong clan, putting them in scenarios that encapsulate their disposition. Tera is brimming with self-assurance, but she’s visibly worried about the restaurant’s future and her mother’s health. Saren, Tera’s teasing brother, is compelled to protect Tera from the big bad men that roam the hazardous area of “Low Bottoms.” And Tera’s exhausted mother is enduring a fractured back, and she’s unable to seek more medical aid because of money problems. The financial hurdles are patently established, and the first half sets the stage for why Tera enters the contraband game.

“…a genuinely surprising reveal does complicate things.”

Hedy Wong’s performance as Tera is engagingly flinty and forceful, rupturing the silence with thousand-yard stares and revealing facial expressions that imply unspoken fear. By the time Tera begins fulfilling orders for Lalo, there’s a lingering sense of doom that stays with Tera throughout her unlawful journey. Under the watchful eye of Lalo’s chief enforcer, Hector (a charming yet rightfully intimidating J. Teddy Garces), and getting involved with a reformed convict named Nate (a gentle Dijon Talton), Tera crosses paths with many threatening and non-threatening faces determined to get something out of her, but as expected, she doesn’t always deliver. For the first 70 minutes, Hisonni Johnson’s Take Out Girl is an outwardly routine character study with a captivating perspective. But a genuinely surprising reveal does complicate things, consequently yielding a hurried conclusion with commendable (if fairly incomplete) ambition and intimacy.

The familial conflicts are not wholly examined, but there are stirring glimpses of dysfunction that leave a lasting impression. In a later scene, Tera and her brother are arguing about partaking in criminal activity. After this riveting confrontation (which is deftly captured by spinning camerawork), the irrevocable implications of the argument are heartbreaking. Hisonni Johnson’s Take Out Girl is a technically proficient and impressively acted crime picture with bold execution. With a loud soundtrack consisting of pop-rap, a fully exploited setting with gangsters on every corner, and a collection of characters destined to erupt, Take Out Girl is constantly intriguing. Even if the final act is rushed, the film hammers in the chronic ramifications of a life pervaded with blood and betrayal.

Take Out Girl screened at the 2020 Asian American International Film Festival.

Take Out Girl (2020)

Directed: Hisonni Johnson

Written: Hisonni Johnson, Hedy Wong

Starring: Hedy Wong, Ski Carr, Lynna Yee, J. Teddy Garces, Dijon Talton, Mier Chasin, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Take Out Girl Image

"…its compelling emphasis on Tera elevates the stakes."

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