Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Christopher Di Nunzio's A Life Not to Follow

Cody checks out a crime thriller that is now available on Digital, VOD, and DVD.

It was just a few months ago that I was taking a look at director Christopher Di Nunzio's horror movie Delusion, and now the filmmaker already has a new movie out, the neo-noir gangster thriller A Life Not to Follow.

Horror is my favorite genre, so Delusion was easy to get into. A Life Not to Follow had a tougher fight to win me over, because I'm not typically a big fan of gangster films. Sure, I enjoy and/or respect the major ones that fans of this branch of the crime thriller sub-genre would be quick to reference, but I'm not really drawn to this type of movie. Gangster stories aren't appealing to me, with few exceptions. So I went into this hoping it would be one of those exceptions.

A Life Not to Follow quickly won points from the fact that it's not just a straightforward gangster tale. It's more of an anthology set within the world of organized crime, which I think is pretty rare. In fact, the closest comparison I can make to another movie is to one of my favorite films to involve gangsters, the Quentin Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction.

Di Nunzio's film is divided into three chapters, each running a little over 30 minutes, with chapter two being slightly longer than chapter one and chapter three being the longest of the bunch.

First up is "The Comeuppance", starring Fiore Leo as Eric DiVenardi, an ex-con out to get revenge on the crime family he was working for when he was sent to prison at just 16 years old. Eric's mission couldn't be called a roaring rampage, though. This movie didn't have the budget for that type of action; the segment actually largely consists of a conversation Eric has with his sort-of girlfriend Finola (Erica Derrickson), filling her in on what he has done and what he intends to do.

Di Nunzio and his co-writer Pedro Alvarado clearly enjoy crafting dialogue, but A Life Not to Follow has the same issue as Delusion - the dialogue comes off as being a bit stilted. There's no question that the writers have a way with words, they can put together lines that would be very impressive in prose, but when they're spoken by actors they don't seem natural. People don't talk like that. The lines are slightly over-written, so viewers have to accept the characters' unrealistic way of speaking or else they might find them amusing.

Dialogue issues aside, and despite the budget having an impact on the action, "The Comeuppance" is interesting enough to sustain its running time and I enjoyed it overall.

The second chapter is called "Nobody's Friend" and it's immediately tied in to the events of "The Comeuppance" through an appearance by two characters - Molly Kay as Eliza Cushing, a young woman who played a part in Eric's revenge plans, and Michael Capozzi as Luca Trapani, another one of Eric's associates. They're not as friendly with each other as you might expect, but this establishes that the stories are at least connected to each other in some way.

"Nobody's Friend" centers on Angelo (John Martellucci), a gangster who's looking to be "made". He gets his opportunity, but it will require killing somebody: his buddy Luca, who has become troublesome to the family they work for. He's aiming too high and he's too homicidal.

The set-up is intriguing, but the execution of "Nobody's Friend" was somewhat lacking. Although it threw some surprises my way, it didn't hold my attention very well. The interactions between Angelo and Luca should have been a highlight, but I wasn't really interested in what they had to say to each other. This chapter just didn't click with me.

Everything wraps up with "One Dead Dick", which dives all the way into noir territory by focusing on a sleep-deprived private investigator – Delusion star David Graziano as Tobias Kane, a former (and disgraced) FBI agent – who provides a voice-over narration to let us know what's on his mind. Tobias is searching for Eliza Cushing, which takes him through locations from the other chapters and causes him to cross paths with certain characters we've seen before.

"One Dead Dick" was my favorite chapter of the three, as it successfully pulled the entire film together and brought things to a violent conclusion. Graziano is just as great in this movie as he was in Delusion, making Tobias a character I was glad to be following through the criminal underworld. I knew he was on a collision course with a character I had come to strongly dislike by this point, and I couldn't wait to see Tobias bring this guy his comeuppance.

For whatever reason, that wasn't a level of satisfaction the film wanted to deliver.

A Life Not to Follow wasn't exactly my type of movie and it had a bit of a lull with the middle chapter, but overall I found it to be quite intriguing and entertaining. Di Nunzio clearly had a next-to-nothing budget to work with here, but he managed to make a solid 105 minute crime film with what he had, and it's a film that feels larger than it actually is. I was left slightly unsatisfied by the ending, but that doesn't drag down my opinion too much.

I'd say that if you're a fan of gangster stories, you'd probably get even more out of A Life Not to Follow than I did and should definitely check it out. It's also worth checking out if you're into independent film, to see what Di Nunzio was able to accomplish with very limited resources.

Random Media has released A Life Not to Follow on Digital, VOD and DVD.

No comments:

Post a Comment