By James Lindorf
In “Beast Beast,” writer and director Danny Madden interconnects the stories of three youths as they navigate identity, love, petty crime, and gun violence. Filmed in Georgia but set in a nondescript Southern American town, the movie is brimming with the energy of youth and a style fitting a director making his feature film debut. “Beast Beast” is an extension of Madden’s 2018 short film “Krista,” which was a hit at the South by Southwest Film Festival. At the festival, it attracted the attention of Alec Baldwin, who came on board as a producer. “Beast Beast” will have a limited theatrical run starting April 16th before being available everywhere via streaming on May 4th.
Artificial structures can be awe-inspiring but can never quite live up to something nature constructed. In the entertainment world, the human-made designs are the overly polished and controlled environments of Hollywood productions. They can be great and incredibly entertaining, but when films capable of being more naturalistic are allowed to do so, beautiful things can happen. “Beast Beast” shines in its naturalism in every aspect. Madden and cinematographer Kristian Zuniga shot in a way that makes you feel like you are there among the actors, not watching a well-choreographed scene.
The three lead actors Shirley Chen (Krista), Will Madden (Adam), and Jose Angeles (Nito), play wildly different types of people. Krista is a good girl who loves her drama class. Nito is new in town, struggling to find his place. Is he an artist, an athlete, or a burnout? Finally, Adam is a nice guy who knows what he wants, and as he feels it slipping away, his self-control goes with it. On the surface, the only thing the three characters have in common is strained relationships with their parents. If dealing with your parents was a sliding scale, Krista would be on the healthy end because she has positive outlets for her frustrations. Nito would be somewhere in the middle. His single father doesn’t seem very interested in having a kid leaving Nito alone to find his path in life. When he is with Krista, the sky is the limit, but when he is with his other friends, there doesn’t seem to be much in his future besides drugs, the bottom of countless bottles, and most likely prison. Adam would be on the unhealthy side as he isolates himself from loving parents to the point that nearly every interaction ends in conflict. The three actors effortlessly bring you into their world, letting you understand who they are and what led them to the film’s climax.
There are a few hiccups along the way. Adam’s descent into being a YouTube psychopath seems to happen very quickly. It may have been nice to see more of him careening towards this conclusion, like an out-of-control freight train. Instead, with the film split between the three characters, we have to make intuitive jumps from time to time. Adam has the most significant arc or fall from grace, and maybe instead of an equal share, he should have gotten 40% of the screen time to even out his change.
Then there is the ending which feels like a major misstep. It may have been Madden’s attempt to provide a sense of justice or hope to the audience. Unfortunately, it feels abrupt and something more fitting to another short, if not a feature. Dealing with grief can be discussed for hours and lead to countless outcomes and shouldn’t be tackled in five minutes. This secondary climax draws you away from the emotional moment as you try and figure out what is going on. Without this ending, the audience may have left sad or angry, but that mirrors these events in real life and is better than leaving confused. It turns “Beast Beast” from what would have been a 4.5 out of 5 film for me into a 3.5/4
Original Language: English
Director: Danny Madden
Producer: Tara Ansley, Jim Cummings, Matt Miller, Benjamin Wiessner
Writer: Danny Madden
Release Date (Theaters): April 16th
Release Date (Streaming): May 4th
Runtime: 1h 25m
Production Co: El Dorado Pictures, Vanishing Angle, Persona Entertainment, Arsonist’s Films
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