Bad Frank from writer/director Tony Germinario is currently impressing audiences on the festival circuit and is set for a US release in June. Top 10 Films has managed to catch a preview of this slow-burn thriller.
The eponymous lead Frank Pierce (Kevin Interdonato) has his seemingly idyllic life with his wife Gina (Amanda Clayton) disturbed by hidden revelations from his past. Events out of Frank’s control lead to the return of former addictions and tendencies that challenge his mental state when something precious is taken from him.
From the very opening this film has a quiet sense of unease and dread that escalates as the film builds, correlating with Frank’s mental state. I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word for this film as it is often uncomfortable viewing as Frank unravels into his “bad” and more instinctual form. However, I would highly recommend it as essential viewing for any cinema fan. This film’s appearance and craft is suggestive of a much bigger budget, and I will be watching writer/director Tony Germinario’s future career with interest, as what he has achieved here is very impressive.
The opening set up appears familiar, a happy couple with a strong silent male figure described at one point as “Mr Personality”, a difficult relationship with distant parents, an annoying troublemaking best friend, then a chance encounter reminding of a violent past leading to a kidnapping and seemingly standard revenge plot. This set-up may feel familiar, but once it gets going this is not the film you expect. The surprise and strength of this film is using standard movie tropes and cliché, then taking them to unexpected destinations. A lazy review would describe the plot as a low budget Taken-esque kidnap/revenge film, but it is much more than that. When the violence erupts it has a gritty edge and no sense of fun like the Taken films. And the violence really does erupt as Frank becomes increasingly unstable throughout the film. There is one violent display that is slowed down and then abruptly re-enters real time enhancing the brutality on show.
This is not an action film, it’s a lot slower than you expect becoming more of a psychological drama/thriller. It becomes almost a study of the lead characters’ mental state as he falls back into addiction accepting his genetic tendencies, simultaneously making him calmer and more unpredictable. I found the one misstep of the film to be a secondary kidnap that seemed to slow the film slightly and diffuse some of the uncomfortable tension that the film had been building. Perhaps this slowing down was another ploy to take the film in an unexpected direction. At the same time the reminder of Frank’s violent past comes in the form of Mickey Duro (Tom Sizemore) who helps ratchet up the tension with a threatening and explosive delivery. This character forms a nice comparison to Frank as while Frank becomes calmer Mickey becomes louder and more explosive.
This was a rare example of watching a film I knew little about and came to with no expectation or assumption. The trailer satisfyingly gives very little away hinting at a psychological element so I hope this review doesn’t spoil the surprising journey this film takes you on. The climax of the film is both a psychological acceptance as much as a plot conclusion.
The film is not perfect and could be described as rough around the edges, but that also forms part of its charm. The whole film hangs on the central performance that must be carefully constructed to relay Frank’s exact mental and physical state with minimal dialogue. Interdonato’s performance alone is enough to make me recommend the film. He gives a career-defining performance that from the very start reflects a hidden mania behind his wounded eyes. The rest of the cast fulfil their roles admirably including the explosive Tom Sizemore and the weasel-like friend played by Brandon Heitkamp. Amanda Clayton, as Frank’s wife, is perhaps underserved by the script, but she starts the film as clueless about Frank as the audience so the revelations hit her hard as well.
Hopefully this gritty psychological drama will hit the UK soon as it does deserve to reach a wide audience. I will be watching the future career of those involved with interest as there is some great talent on show here both in front of, and behind, the camera.