When motocross and heavy metal obsessed thirteen-year-old Jacob's increasing delinquent behavior forces CPS to place his little brother, Wes, with his aunt, Jacob and his emotionally absent ... Read allWhen motocross and heavy metal obsessed thirteen-year-old Jacob's increasing delinquent behavior forces CPS to place his little brother, Wes, with his aunt, Jacob and his emotionally absent father, Hollis, must finally take responsibility for their actions and for each other in o... Read allWhen motocross and heavy metal obsessed thirteen-year-old Jacob's increasing delinquent behavior forces CPS to place his little brother, Wes, with his aunt, Jacob and his emotionally absent father, Hollis, must finally take responsibility for their actions and for each other in order to bring Wes home.
When we meet Hollis (Aaron Paul) and his two sons, Jacob (Josh Wiggins) and his younger brother, Wes (Deke Garner), they have already lost their wife/mother. Hollis has basically abandoned his children, spending his days renovating a hurricane-ravaged beach house where they were all planning to move to before the tragedy. Jacob has become a troublemaker, doing everything from trespassing to property destruction. Within the film's opening minutes, we witness him and his buddies smashing up and setting fire to a truck. What's worse is that Jacob involves Wes in his law-breaking excursions. When they see the conditions in which he is living, Child Protective Services decides to place Wes in the custody of his Aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis). This serves as a wake-up call to both Jacob and Hollis, who decide to get their acts together and create a more suitable environment for the youngster. Jacob sets his sights on competitive motocross racing, while Hollis aims to finish up the beach house.
Candler, a native Texan, and cinematographer Brett Pawlak (doing stunning work) really capture the natural feel of her southern setting. The on-location shooting gives the film an authentic feel, as well as serves as a sort of love letter to her home state. You can sense how passionate Candler is about Texas through the ways in which it is lensed. This is not Hollywood fakery. The authentic feel of the locations helps to build upon the authentic feel of the story. Its impact is much more powerful because of this. Also notable is the use of heavy metal music, something not usually present in this type of story. It serves as a way of conveying the anger the boys are feeling in their current situation. It's an extra touch that works perfectly and makes this stand out from similar films.
The two big name actors in this film, Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis, are both fantastic. Paul makes Hollis, an absent father, into a more sympathetic figure than he could've been. Although we don't always agree with what Hollis does, we feel the pain that he does, and so we understand where he's coming from. This is a wonderful addition to his post-Breaking Bad career. Lewis, given a chance to play a more grounded character than the wackier roles she's known for, does an equally great job. Though not his mother, it's clear that Pam loves Wes and wants what's best for him.
However, as good as Paul and Lewis are, the real stars of this film are the newcomers. Josh Wiggins, a star in the making, perfectly captures all of the emotions needed to portray the troubled Jacob, from love and happiness to anger and desperation. He is game for whatever is needed of him, which is great considering he has to go to some dark places. Equally solid is Deke Garner as the younger brother caught up in circumstances he doesn't fully understand. He serves as the heart of the film, motivating the actions of Jacob, Hollis, and Pam. Providing able support are the kids playing Jacob's cronies. Candler has selected an incredibly talented young whom we will hopefully see up on screen more frequently.
Between the acting, the direction, the cinematography, and the themes of loss and responsibility, Hellion is one of the best and most powerful films released thus far in 2014. Though it may not break new ground in terms of its story, Candler brings a unique-enough feel to it to make it stand out. Apparently she is currently working on a feature expansion of another great short of hers, Black Metal. Based on the level of quality present in this, that can't come out soon enough!
- May 15, 2014