Desmond Devenish’s “Misfortune” struggles to find it’s footing.

“A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes.” ~ Nicky Santoro, “Casino”

Cinematic history is replete with B – level budget films; films that the traditional Studio system were unwilling to take a bet on.  Roger Corman and George Romero are probably the most familiar names, while Peter Fonda and Bob Rafelson pushed ultra-low budget movies in the 1960’s and 1970’s with solid stories and characters that audiences could relate to.  Their efforts and changes in technology paved the way for Desmond Devenish to get his debut feature film “Misfortune” out to audiences.

When he’s not behind the lens producing and directing the film, Devenish plays Boyd, an unemployed aimless soul.  His girlfriend Sloan is a diner waitress who wants nothing more than to see Boyd do something with his life, even at one point asking him to take out the garbage which has been piling up in the kitchen for weeks.

Boyd learns from an old family friend that Mallick is about to be paroled.  Years ago, Mallick and Boyd’s dad, Roman, tried to do a deal for a small cache of diamonds.  Roman ended up dead and Mallick ended up in prison, but no one knows where the diamonds ended up.  With Mallick out for revenge, Boyd works with his street pal Russell, a cat and mouse chase across the Sonoran Desert ensues.

Where Devenish succeeds is in his casting choices.  Xander Bailey, who co-wrote the screenplay with Devenish played the ultra-suave Russell maintaining an even temper, an asset when certain situations throughout the film need diffusing.  Jenna Kanell pays Janel quite effectively.  However, once the story picks its pace up, she blended a little too much into the background.  This might have been intentional, but it didn’t serve her character effectively. Watching Boyd and Russell, I couldn’t help but recall Andy and Billy from Rob Weiss’ “Amongst Friends”:  two young punks who want to be street thugs, but don’t have the resolve to see their deals through.

Nick Mancuso plays Roman, who is only on the screen for a few minutes.  The confrontation between he and Kevin Gage’s Mallick at the opening of the movie really packs a punch.  Mancuso will be familiar to audiences as Tom Breaker, the CIA director in “Under Siege” and “Under Siege 2.”

Kevin Gage played Mallick with the same relentlessness that he gave us as Waingro in Michael Mann’s “Heat.”  Performance – wise, both Mancuso and Gage really took the film to the next level, but they couldn’t carry it.

Filmed on location in the Tucson suburb of Tanque Verde, Seth Johnson’s cinematography truly expands the scope of the film, giving it an epic quality.  It helped to capture the essence of the chase nature of the film.

Devenish’s script is a familiar, yet well – told story with Mann’s story telling sensibilities and Scorsese’s influences including “Goodfellas” and “Casino.”  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t expand beyond its boundaries.  The challenge is that most of the characters are so flat that when some of the reveals happen, you aren’t invested in them enough to care.

“Misfortune” is now playing in a limited theatrical release.

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