By Don R. Lewis | March 22, 2005

Making a low-budget film about a major disaster hitting Los Angeles takes some courage. Making it a good movie takes some talent. “Waterborne,” the feature debut of writer/director Ben Rekhi shows he has both. With our terror level at a constantly elevated level, setting up a story about a terrorist attack on L.A.’s water supply is pretty easy pickens. Yet rather than make some low budget, B-horror movie Rekhi wisely chooses to focus on three separate, yet entangled storylines following everyday people through the crisis.

Zach is played by Christopher Masterson. He’s a hard working college student who has somehow allowed his dope selling, accident-waiting-to-happen cousin Bodi to move in with him. In another part of town, we meet Sgt. Ritter played by the always awesome Jon Gries. He’s a military reservist with a wife and young daughter who gets called to duty when disaster strikes. The third storyline involves Vikram (Naidu), a Middle Eastern man whose mother is set on keeping him firmly rooted in their religion. But Vikram is torn as he tries to decide to listen to his mother or pursue his more Western yearnings which include girlfriend Lillian (Tovah).

Without giving away too much of the plot, I’ll just say that each storyline has an equally compelling build-up. Vikram is a publicly marked man because of his nationality and his stubborn, pushy mother adds to the drama. Ritter is teamed with a rootin’-tootin’ Private Carlton (Berry) who’s looking to pick a fight and Bodi is a ticking time-bomb, chock full of irrational and violent behavior. Every actor is excellent in the film and without them, the film could have had some problems with the story.

Rekhi does a great job developing each character and their storyline. However, more than once I felt bludgeoned on the head by some scenes with dialogue too much on the nose and actions that just aren’t needed. It’s as if Rekhi feels compelled to spell everything out for the audience and he doesn’t need to. He’s already got a great premise setup and all he has to do is knock it out of the park. We’re all along for the ride once it gets going.

Rekhi succeeds by the end of the film and proves to be a talented director by using sound design and smart camera work to portray L.A. in the grips of panic. I look forward to seeing this film again on DVD so I can really see how he pulled some scenes off. I also look forward to seeing what Rekhi can do with a big budget even though he clearly doesn’t need one.

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