Charlie is sick of life in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, living in a Russian dominated community, where he has decided to take up a life of petty crime instead of getting a normal job like everyone else. Small-time gangster? No way. Lazy fool? Absolutely. And it’s this lazy foolishness of him and his criminal buddies that winds up turning all of their lives inside out once they get involved in trying to sell some stolen diamonds so that they can, once and for all, leave their run down community.
I’m confused. I really don’t know how to feel about this film. It has a bunch of different styles pulling in different directions. This has been effectively pulled off in many other films, which in turn kind of creates its own style, but here it just comes off as indecision by the filmmaker as to what exactly he wants his audience to feel. In consequence, I feel that most of the intended emotion has been bled dry from his story and characters.
At times “Down on Brighton” feels like it wants to be a seedy crime thriller as we witness Charlie’s stolen jewelry hocking ways. At other times it seems like it wants to be a quirky comedy with Charlie’s idiot buddy and partner Robbie coming off as more irritating than funny and a Willie Nelson singing Chinese dry cleaning owner providing attempted funny. While other times it feels like it wants to be a dreary comment on Russian life in Brooklyn with everyone seemingly trapped in this little community because they feel like they have no other safe place to go. Some filmmakers would be able to blend these elements together to make something interesting if not powerful, but instead each element here is repelled from each other.
Also helping to bring the ship down is how poorly this feature is shot. Some of the camera work is okay, but certainly nothing to shout about, while a good bulk of it comes off as amateurish with characters and action being clumsily framed or the camera looking right into a glaring light. There’s even a shot where we’re looking dead on into the back of a woman’s head as she delivers her line. Also, I think it’s safe to say that if you or your crew don’t know how to stage a proper on camera fight, then that said fight is best left on the cutting room floor. There’s a fight scene at the beginning of this feature that is absolutley hilarious because it totally looks like something out of the old “Batman” television show. Clumsily choreographed, this scene just has a bunch of guys flopping about a warehouse, the only things missing are the – POWs and BAMs!
At least the plot moves along at a nice steady pace. Without that, I would’ve been shaking hands with Mr. Sandman for sure. Still, and I could be wrong about this, but I feel that what the filmmaker was trying to do here was create a thrilling peek into the criminal underworld, but what it does instead is merely present a few schleppy guys trying to make some cash. Nothing thrilling to report here.