By Stina Chyn | February 25, 2004

There’s nothing like narrative deprivation in a film to keep an audience attentive. Whether this technique emerges at a film’s beginning, middle, or near-end depends on the story itself and how the suspense of not knowing who someone is or why something happened affects the viewer. Daniel Casey-Vanhout utilizes this device in the opening scenes of his film “The Passage” in the form of a significant flashback. As the beginning credits roll, you witness a couple of masked, armed robbers storm a diner. Guns drawn, death threats firm, the robbers get everyone on the ground. Sarah (Alexis Nemeth, who bears a subtle resemblance to Thora Birch), the diner’s lone employee, must comply with the demands of the costumed intruders. They end up killing her. Immediately, you want to know what events lead up to her tragic death. Andy Hill (Greg Dow), the next character you meet, wants to know as well.

“The Passage” is essentially a gangster/heist film, and as such it includes scores that need settling, crooked detectives, innocent victims, and gun violence. The fighting and gun-shooting sequences, staged and choreographed by Danny Ray Cook and Stuntz ‘N’ FX 2000, are quite impressive. When two of the characters start pummeling each other in one scene, attacking with utter determination, you hope that they won’t stop fighting. The film documents Andy’s passage or layover, not into a highly desired position in the crime world, but to the afterlife. Stylized variations in the film’s color reflect changes in story’s temporal time. While refreshing, the color palette and the camerawork strike you as too much like “Traffic” (Steven Soderbergh, 2000). The acting occasionally falters, but “The Passage” definitely grabs hold of your attention, and doesn’t let go until it’s over.

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