Greetings again from the darkness. January releases are always a bit of a gamble – not just for filmmakers, but also for viewers. A few gems are often buried in the indie dump, so an open mind is especially beneficial and necessary this time of year. Landing somewhere in between the hidden gems and the muck is this B-movie crime thriller from writer-director John Stalberg Jr, and his co-writers Rex New and Nick Turner.
Like so many immigrants to the United States, Felix (Diego Tinoco) is a bright-eyed man, desperate to work and save enough money to relocate his family from Ecuador. At a local convenience store one morning, Donnie (Luke Hemsworth) offers a job (digging a hole in the desert) to Felix and another day-laborer named Alfonso (Hemky Madera, “Queen of the South”). While Felix seems eager and friendly, Alfonso is grumpy and hardened, but it’s Donnie and his cohort who turn out to be psychopaths and criminals. Things turn violent with a blast of gunfire and a pickax to the chest. Felix and Alfonso find themselves knee deep in a botched drug deal and are forced to become partners in order to survive.
Alfonso’s secret past as ‘God Killer’ works to their advantage, and soon enough he has called in a favor from a skittish scumbag (Thomas Jane) who runs a junk lot with a car crusher. He also has a contact for a local veterinarian (Nick Cassavetes) who is on-call for, um, non-pet medical emergencies. On their tail is a fixer (Tyrese Gibson) who works for the “gringos” on one side of the drug deal gone wrong. Working to the film’s advantage is that the actors are all fully engaged and never distract from a situation that most of us can’t exactly relate to (thank goodness).
Felix has a dream of bringing his family to the states and opening a restaurant that features his specialty: chicken with pumpkin. While I will likely never try his signature dish, I found this little movie surprisingly easy to watch – despite the violence and low budget (and inconsistencies with Hemsworth’s arm).
Opening in select theaters and VOD on January 26, 2024